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Contents: Volume 2 - The 14th SUNDAY (A) - July 5, 2020


The

  14th

  Sunday

   2020

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

5. -- About the Yoke Carol and Dennis

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

 

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Sun. 14 A

In our Gospel account from Mathew, we hear Jesus say, "Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest." I don't know anyone who doesn't fit that figurative description or need rest, do you? That one sentence has become a kind of mantra for me personally these last few weeks since many things are more stressful than ever in my household.

So do we who fit that category just line up and wait our turn? It may feel that way, that the waiting line is interminable, slow moving, and never ending. Jesus's inbox or request line or ticket distribution center, however, finds each of us first in line and gives an automatic and instant reply that says "right now".

Jesus's arms are already open and the instructions are already there. He says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me... and you will find rest for yourselves". Oh, oh, our turn!

Can we do one more thing? Well, we can if it is to take Jesus's yoke upon ourselves. That yoke begins with finding the time to sit with Jesus a bit in prayer and learn .

What Jesus teaches is applicable to all of us and each of us in our own unique situation. In these times, whatever you situation is, that teaching includes Jesus's reminder to trust in the Lord's care for us. We must then act according to God's ways and not for personal gain, and also care for one another.

Focusing on just those few parts of Jesus's "little instruction book" removes quite a bit of my "burden". I can't do it all, but I can be caring and loving, a little bit at a time. I can take on that yoke so my burden will lighten.

I pray you can also. Let us pray together that soon and very soon, we will all rejoice and shout for joy. We all need peace in our lands and in our hearts!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Fourteenth Sunday of Ordered Time July 5 2020

Zechariah 9:9-10; Responsorial Psalm 145; Romans 8:9 & 11-13; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 11:25; Matthew 11:25-30

The readings this Sunday seem to focus on the wonderful circumstances of the Kingdom of Heaven. Zechariah’s prophecy speaks of the Messiah coming to Jerusalem as a King of peace and prosperity. At his coming, war would cease and the world would come together in harmony. The Messiah’s influence would be a dominion of leadership focusing on the common good of all nations – from sea to sea and from the great river to the ends of the earth. Every person would benefit from this common good.

The gospel is a statement of Jesus which describes life how living would be if we listened to his Words and take to heart his message. His wisdom and instruction come from God his Father and are true. God cannot lie. The way he preaches, teaches, heals the sick, and restores the maimed to wholeness makes our life’s work sweet. The yoke placed on our shoulders is no burden, the cross we receive is light and manageable.

Paul’s letter to the Romans insists we have God dwelling within us. We are infused with God’s Spirit. Because of that indwelling, even our bodies have life. These three readings are hope filled, filled with blessings, and would appear out of touch with reality. Our Responsorial Psalm is how we react to the good news: "I will praise your name forever, my King and my God."

Who experiences such sweetness? Whose burden is light? What yoke placed on our shoulders as responsibility for families, for neighbors, for the nation, for the world is easy? If we listen with pious ears which end in veneration in place of action, we will fail to discover the meaning of these readings. We will have lost a life changing message.

Zechariah was a prophet around the year 520 before Christ, following the release from the Babylonian Captivity. The nation had returned to Jerusalem to discover the city in utter ruin. The glory of Jerusalem, the Temple on the highest point in Jerusalem, was destroyed – only its foundation remained. The area of the nation was reduced to about twenty square miles. Those Jews who escaped death and capture did not welcome those returning. There were other nations who saw these returning Jews easy pickings for raiding and looting parties. Oh, yes, the Samaritans to the north were more than willing to help rebuild. But the distrust against what the Jews considered a mongrel nation prevented the Jews from accepting their help. It was an awfully difficult time for these people. Where was hope? What could they accomplish when odds against success were so great? Why should they consider rebuilding the Temple against such odds? Wasn’t that rebuilding an empty concession to religion? Zechariah’s insists God must be central to their efforts. That is why his prophecy insisted the Temple be rebuilt. It would be the symbol and the reality of God present with his chosen people. Without God’s presence their efforts would fail.

This chapter eleven in Matthew’s gospel follows the missionary efforts of the disciples described in chapter 10. The chapter begins with John the Baptist sending Jesus the question. "Are you the one who is to come?" Jesus answered the question by pointing out what he was doing: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are returned to life, and the hear good news. These actions of Jesus are the signs the prophets said would be signs of the Messiah. John had his answer – or was it John’s intention that his disciples had their answer?

As chapter eleven continues, Jesus evaluates his success. Even though he preached God’s word, even though he healed the sick, even though he revealed God as the God of loving kindness, even so, the cities in which he preached rejected his teaching and his messiahship. They didn’t so much actively reject the message as they killed it with indifference. They were looking for something else in their Messiah. Their indifference would bring them to destruction in this life and in the life to come.

Just as Zechariah’s message was a message of hope centered on the presence of God within the hearts and minds of the nation, so also Jesus insists he is the presence of God among the people. This time of Jesus has similarity to Zechariah’s time. Rome occupied the nation, suppressed dissent with quick and murderous violence. Pilate’s reign was particularly violent. At one point there was a massive crucifixion of two thousand rebels carried out along the main road to Jerusalem as a warning to any who would rebel against Rome’s occupation and taxation. In all this, the Sadducees and the Priestly class sought collaboration with Rome to continue their way of life. The Sadducees were the wealth who owned the means of production and marketing. The Priestly class pandered to the occupiers because they feared their rituals, their way of life, and their control over the people would be lost. Roman worship of the Emperor would be installed in the Temple and they would lose their place and religion. Both these parties had a lot to lose if a Messiah came along ruining the balance with Rome. Pharisees were the academics who searched the Law of Moses and applied what they believed to be the will of God to every bit and piece of human living. They were prideful. They believed they had all the answers. They believed there was nothing they had not already considered or anything that might happen they couldn’t control. It was a dark time for the nation. Leadership had forfeited responsibility in honor of a status quo that benefitted the wealthy, the influential, and those with the power of religion. There just wasn’t any need for a Messiah! Those with wealth, those with some power, those with education and knowledge were satisfied.

To all these persons, in chapter eleven of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says wake up. That is the context of this Sunday’s gospel. "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones." Why are the little ones the recipients of the revelation of God and who God is for them? Why not the proud, the powerful, the wealthy? Couldn’t their influence and resources do more to spread the Kingdom of Heaven than the tradesmen, the herders, the farmers, the shopkeepers, the civil servants, and day laborers? It is not that Jesus rejects those in power, those of wealth, those of wisdom and understanding. It is that the little ones are those who know they need help to live well. It is those little ones who lack the means to cover over the desires of their hearts for fullness of life which comes only by way of a relationship with their creator. Personal indifference to the necessity of God in life is fueled by accumulation, by access to power, by narrow-minded wisdom, by admiration of the crowds. Who needs God’s presence when the noise and trappings of worldly values fills the void in human hearts? That indifference to his words and his works is the cause of great sadness in the person of Jesus. Remember the scene of Jesus looking over the city of Jerusalem as he rode the foal of the ass into the city before his death. He wept, "How often I would have collected you under my wings as does a mother hen, but you would not have me." Zechariah foretold Jesus’ ride into the city in this Sunday’s reading.

We live in troubled times. We are threatened with a highly contagious virus that attacks the infirm and the aged. Some of our civil leadership wants to wish it away. Yet in the world, our nation of tremendous resources and science had the worst record controlling the virus. There seems to be a common lack of resolve to protect one another. Many leaders and many average citizens consider this plague the problem of others. How contrary to the teachings and works of Jesus. His healings and miracles always, always, always had the effect of drawing together persons into community. Infirmity, handicap, and mental illness made persons outcasts, rejects of society’s social, economic, and cultural energies. In Jesus’ healings, persons were enabled to participate in community. God is a community of three. If we wish to live God’s life in eternity, then we must be members of God’s community. That is the life of God, that is the presence of the Spirit that Paul writes about in this Sunday’s Epistle.

Not one of us ever has the right to deny life to any other person. The death of the unborn is as abhorrent as the untimely death of an octogenarian because of failures of society, governance, and culture. If Catholics, if Christians claim to be Pro-Life, then the life of every person is sacred or the life of no person is sacred.

We live in troubled times. Jesus insists his way, his burden rests easily on our shoulders. It is light and sweet because it is energized by love of God and love of neighbor. We cannot be indifferent to the pain of others. We should heed the advice of scientists in this time of pandemic. Wearing a mask to contain the virus is a simple gesture of concern for one another. How can this be allowed to be a source of division at a time when solidarity is essential? If Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of Heaven is ignored, how dare we consider ourselves followers of the Way? It is time to wake up the sleeping giant that resides in our hearts. It is faith in the God who loves us that drives us to be one. It is the faith within our hearts that rejects those who divide us, those who choose to rob us of the lightness and sweetness of the yoke Jesus extends to us. Let us pray for a new awakening so that we become what it is God has planned for us.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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IMITATING THE COMPASSION OF JESUS: 14TH SUNDAY A

One of the most wonderful things about the person of Jesus, has been and continues to be, his special love for ordinary people, for people like us. It comes out in two beautiful statements that he makes in the gospel today. The first is in his prayer to God: ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.’ The second is in his Invitation: ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

What leads him to make these statements? He has just completed a tour of the towns and villages of Galilee. In each of them he has been preaching that God is King of the world, and so people must know, love and serve God as the Lord and Ruler of their lives. On many occasions too, he has made the kingdom of God happen, by curing sick people and setting them free from their handicaps and disabilities. But it’s only the ordinary, everyday people who have appreciated his efforts, accepted his message and started to follow him. The educated and the clever have simply closed their minds and hearts to his message, and walked away with their noses in the air.

For the sake of understanding and developing our own personal relationship with Christ, it will be worth delving into his relationship with the ones Jesus often referred to as ‘the poor’ and ‘the little ones’. They are the same ones whom the high and mighty Pharisees called ‘sinners’ or ‘the rabble who know nothing of the law’. Today we might refer to them as ‘the oppressed’, ‘the outsiders’, or ‘the strugglers’.

In the gospels, the term ‘poor’ does not refer only to those who are economically deprived, even though it does include them. In the first place, they were those who had to beg for a living. Beggars included those sick and disabled persons who were not well enough to work and who had no relative to support them. Of course, in that society there were no hospitals, no pensions, and no emergency payments. The blind, the deaf and dumb, the lame, the cripples, and the lepers, then, were generally beggars.

The economically poor included the day-labourers who were often without work, the peasants who worked on the farms of wealthy landowners, and those who were slaves. Then there were the widows and the orphans, who had no way of earning a living and no one to provide for them. They were dependent on occasional handouts from the Temple treasury.

On the whole, the suffering of the poor was not destitution and starvation except during a war or famine. They were sometimes hungry and thirsty, but unlike millions today, they seldom starved. Their principal suffering was the embarrassment and shame that went with being totally dependent upon others. As the steward in the parable says: ‘I would be too ashamed to beg’ (Lk 16:3). They found themselves at the bottom of the social ladder, with no prestige, no power, and no respect. They were social outcasts, and left to feel that their lives were without dignity, meaningless, helpless and hopeless.

People of the middle class (the educated and the law-abiding, such as the scribes and Pharisees), treated them as low-class scum, and called them ‘sinners’. The educated ones, those who knew the Scriptures backwards, put the label ‘sinners’ too, on any who had sinful or unclean professions, e.g. prostitutes, tax collectors, robbers, herdsmen or gamblers. Others called ‘sinners’ included those who did not pay their tithes (one tenth of their income) to the priests, those who did not rest on the sabbath (the Jewish Saturday), and those who were careless about keeping the laws and customs concerning foods and ritual purity. So, these so-called ‘sinners’ felt terrible frustration, shame, guilt, anxiety and misery. They did not even have the consolation of feeling that they were in God’s good books. The educated ones, those who ‘ought to know’, kept telling them that they were displeasing to God.

But Jesus was different, strikingly different. As a carpenter, he was from the middle class himself and not one of the poor and oppressed. But he mixed socially with even the poorest of the poor. He even got the nick-name ‘the friend of sinners’. In a nutshell Jesus became an outcast by choice.

Why did he do this? What would make a middle-class man talk to beggars and mix socially with the poor? What would make a man who was a prophet, a spokesperson for God, mix with those who neither knew the fine print of the law nor kept it? The answer comes across very clearly in the gospels: COMPASSION!

Over and over again the gospels say this kind of thing: ‘When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick’ (Mt 14:14). ‘When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ (Mt 9:36). The plight and tears of the widow of Nain touched his heart to the core: ‘Don’t cry,’ he says to her, before bringing her son back to life (Lk7:13-15). He was moved with compassion at the plight of a leper begging for help (Mk 4:41), for two blind men sitting at the side of a road begging (Mt 20:30-34), and for a crowd of people with nothing to eat (Mk 8:2 par). In each case he responds to their sufferings with the power and love, the compassion and care of God.

All through the gospels, even when the word is not used, we sense the surge of compassion rising in the heart of Jesus. ‘Don’t cry,’ he says, ‘Don’t worry’, ‘Don’t be afraid’ (e.g. Mk5:36; 6:50; Mt 6:25-34). He was not moved by the grandeur and beauty of the great Temple buildings (Mk 13:1-2), but by the generosity of a poor widow who put her last cent into the Temple treasury (Mk 12:41-44). When everyone else around him was jumping for joy at the raising of Jairus’s daughter to life, Jesus was concerned that she should be given something to eat (Mk 5:42-43).

His compassion was the most human and humane thing about Jesus. It’s the most human and humane thing about us as well. The Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon once wrote: ‘Life is mostly froth and bubble. Two things stand like stone, kindness in another’s trouble, courage in our own!’ So, whose side are we on? On the side of Jesus, the side of compassion, kindness, help, healing, and mercy? Or on the side of the scribes and Pharisees of this world - fierce, fault-finding, harsh, critical, and merciless? Will we take our cue from their cruel, harsh, and insensitive judgments of others? Or will we take our inspiration from what we have seen in Jesus, and from the Invitation he reissues to us today: ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest?’

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

 

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Year A: 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

"I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children."

I have a friend – a good and holy Jesuit who is also a world-renowned Biblical expert. I’ll call him Fr John Smith. And his particular expertise is in Biblical languages – he is supposed to know many of the languages which existed in Palestine in Old Testament times - which is not bad at his current age of 92!

But, to tell you the truth, he is also an excruciatingly boring teacher. And not all of his students could really believe that such a boring teacher could really be such a brilliant scholar. So, one day, his students decided to put him to the test. They got together and went down into the basement of the library. And there, amidst rows and rows of dusty shelves that clearly nobody had looked at for years, they found a copy of a document in Ancient Assyrian – at least that’s what it said on the cover. So, they took it out of its cover and, at his next lecture, Fr Smith found it waiting for him on the lectern – obviously a challenge. He picked it up, looked at it for a few moments, then read out a few lines, translating the text into English as he went along. His students were suitably impressed. And then he said, "Yes, it is Old Assyrian, but rather late Old Assyrian and not very good style. If you look on the next shelf above where you found this, fourth scroll from the right, you will find a much better piece." And with that he went on with his lecture, having earned his students’ undying respect – even if not their total attention.

However, when he came to teach me, he was 79. He told me that – three years previously – at age 76 – he had had the revelation of his life. It is one of the rules of St Ignatius that all of his men should, at least once a year, spend some time teaching "unlettered children". Fr Smith had decided to fulfil this obligation by conducting a Sunday school class for 15 year olds. He was very nervous about this because he knew he was a very boring teacher and he was not sure how he was going to get on. So he gave them a passage to read and think about and it happened to be the parable of the Prodigal Son. And then he started teaching them about it: about the significance of the journey of the prodigal son to a far country; its relationship to population movements in Ancient Palestine and some interesting parallels between Jesus’ manner of telling parables and the ancient Jewish tradition of "midrash" – the way in which the scriptures are augmented and amplified by rabbis to meet the practical circumstances of the modern believer.

Within about 15 minutes, three of the children were asleep and the rest were obviously bored silly. So, he stopped talking and, not sure what to do next, he asked if anyone else had anything they wanted to say. And a few people talked a little bit but didn’t say anything very much and then there was a long pause.

But he noticed one girl with very red eyes as if she was about to cry. And she seemed to be half wanting to say something and half too shy. So he asked her to speak. She was reluctant, but he encouraged her. And then she began to speak about how this passage reminded her of her father beating her and her mother. And how reading and praying over this passage made her realise that she had another father who is in heaven. And how this made her feel loved and cherished – really loved properly – for the first time since she could remember.

When she had finished speaking, nobody said anything for a very long time. And then they all prayed together. And John suddenly realised that, although he had given his entire adult life to the study of Scripture, he had actually completely missed the point. Scripture is not the study of ancient texts for what they tell us about the ancient near East, although that can be important and even interesting – if you’re that way inclined. But Scripture is the living encounter with God, whose Son came among us to bring us the Church. And it was his disciples who left behind these documents which the Church gathered together and called the Bible – through which we too can know what it was like to meet God on earth. And so, every day, Father John Smith of the Society of Jesus makes this prayer:

"I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to (and through) mere children."

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who reveals Himself to us.

Paul O’Reilly, SJ <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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The Yoke

There is an ancient legend about Jesus before his public ministry. He was a carpenter in Nazareth till he moved to near the Sea of Galilee. The legend states that Jesus was really a talented carpenter (not necessarily because of his divinity but because he had a great master in Joseph who taught him from his experience). In those days when a farmer broke in a new ox to power field work the farmer would bring the oxen into a carpenter to shape and fit a yoke for that specific ox. In this way the yoke would be sweet and light for the ox and not gall or irritate hide or impede that ox’s pulling power. The legend states that Jesus was much sought after as a crafter of yokes. One commentator insists that the sign over Jesus’ shop was "My yokes are light and sweet". From this experience Jesus was able to apply the notion of a well fit yoke to what it meant to follow in the way of his teaching, his healing, and his liberation of the human spirits of those who followed his way. Good story, but really difficult to prove.

This Sunday, if we’re not careful, we’ll think this is one of those stories – in both the Hebrew Scripture reading and in the Gospel – that is sweet and easy to swallow. In this sense both stories are sweet in a saccharine sort of way and offer us no challenge. In the context of both readings, we should realize both were experienced in a world of terror, distrust, disenfranchisement, and a type of slavery that robbed persons of their Spirits – Platonists and Neo-Platonists would insist we should call the "Spirit" our "soul". (I have an aversion to that as when we speak of "soul" we often place it as the only valuable part of our humanity, decrying the body as something of evil that when we finish our lives we’re very happy to discard. This runs contrary to faith in the resurrection of the body we say we believe when we recite the Creed.)

In our current time, that enslavement of Spirit has come to the attention of those of us who try to see beyond the shouting of the news and realize that we can enslave persons without the use of physical chains. It’s most interesting that all of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Gospel era have freedom as the center of their teaching about what it means to be human, especially as it relates to God’s interventions on our behalf. We think of freedom very often as being free of obligation. That’s pretty much bogus. Obligations, responsibilities and accountability that are freely accepted and embraced when done so with the energy of love for other and in that love for others in the love of God is actually freedom. That’s difficult for most to comprehend – it seems to be a matter of aging that allows us to get to understanding that freedom and how it provides us with the energy, the vitality, and the desire to grow in letting go of ego, self-fulfilling efforts in favor of appreciation of others and the satisfaction of their needs.

But it certainly takes a lot of time and a lot of suffering, and a lot of just growing up to realize this. I think it’s the Pennsylvania Dutch whose saying applies: Too soon old, too late smart.

Carol and Dennis (with Charlie editing)

 

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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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