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Contents: Volume 2 - The 17th SUNDAY (A) - July 26, 2020


The

  17th

  Sunday

   2020

 

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. 17 A

In this unusual time in our lives, it is difficult to hold on to, at least from my point of view, the familiar line from the Letter to the Romans that states "We know that all things work for good for those who love God." We Christians do believe this, way down deep. Who among us though would honestly ask God for the "understanding heart" as did Solomon as our one request, in the middle of this pandemic?

OK, so none of us is as wise as Solomon actually to ask that (Scripture fulfilled!) Yes, we all want the pandemic way behind us with no more suffering or casualties. Certainly those in the US would be tempted to request no more political divisiveness about how to do exactly that or for the end of the other political issues that are tearing the united fabric of our country apart.

Wouldn't an understanding heart help to get us there though? Wouldn't understanding hearts all work for good? Perhaps our goal after reading the Gospel parables, the treasure each of us might find in a field, our pearl of great price, or even good as opposed to bad fish, might be to seek that kind of a heart.

That is tough to do when many of us seem to be at our worst because of the constant pressures on us from the closed in and fearful circumstances into which the pandemic has thrust us. Except in our essential workers, it seems that so many of our human tendencies rise up randomly to embarrass us by some of our own words and behaviors. Well, God calls us to be different.

In the longer version of this Sunday's Gospel, God calls us to "bring both the new and the old" from our storehouse. Our storehouse ultimately belongs to God and is rich, deep, and abundant because much has been revealed to us about the kingdom of God. Let us pray that among those treasures, each of us will be able to find tried and true approaches to living with an understanding heart as well as the openness to try newer things to enrich out lives and the lives of those around us.

Be with us, O Lord! Save us, O Lord! Help us, O Lord!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Seventeenth Sunday of Ordered Time July 26 2020

1st Kings 3:5 & 7-12; Responsorial Psalm 119; Romans 8:28-30; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 11:25; Matthew 13:44-52

Perhaps the most effective way of getting inspiration from this Sunday’s readings is to start with the Gospel Acclamation. "Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; for you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom." Jesus seems to be saying that the Father is delighted because of God’s decision to let the little ones in on the secrets of the Kingdom. This brings to mind several questions:

1. Why is God happy about the kingdom? It is the Son who calls him happy and he should know.

2. Why is this kingdom so important that it is called THE kingdom?

3. Who are these little ones who are so favored as to know the secrets?

4. Why is it only the little ones are gifted with the secrets? Where are the great minds, the powerful ones, the wealthy ones, those famous personages honored by the masses?

5. What are these secrets we have got to become little in order to know?

The answers to these questions are my speculations, based heavily on seven decades of searching for answers. That search was augmented by fourteen years of concentrated study and search for meaning and purpose and futile attempts to discover God present. I was blessed to have been tutored in this search by some very bright persons who were unwilling to go for pious, purely devotional, or frequently repeated platitudes in code still so often mouthed by the unthinking and uncommitted. These kind and gracious professors in years of study and especially one friend late in my search - one George Lubeley -opened recesses in my heart that found a place in mind urged there by a heart’s search for truth. I do not know that I have come to complete understanding or the truth of the matter it. But it is from that background that I venture answers to the five questions. It is from the teachings of the church and its traditions and its councils that I find support for such understandings.

Why is God happy about the kingdom? In the gospels, the Kingdom of God, or as Matthew calls it, the Kingdom of Heaven? The answer seems to easy and too dependent on what we believe of God. God is happy because his will for creation is that it become all it can become. That was God’s dream from the beginning. The Kingdom is a work in progress, not a completed reality. It is much more than a physical reality. Anyone who has ever genuinely loved another person knows that love is much more than being present with another. Even beyond intimacy, love is more than that. Love itself is never quite completed. There is always more to learn, to do, to elevate care and concern for the other. Anyone who is in love knows that. It is hoping for and working for what is for the benefit of the one loved. Each triumph is a matter of joy, of delight, and complete, fulfilling, and permanent satisfaction. So, it is with creation and God.

The answer to that first question is also the answer to the second question as to why the kingdom of heavens is THE kingdom. There is no other goal for God than that his dream come to completion. When God’s reign is complete, when his work of creation has achieved all its possibilities, then the Kingdom will have been fully established. That is the only kingdom that will endure --- forever. The reign is not a rule, not the efforts of a tyrant. That reign comes from the allegiances of the heart in love with its creator. It is not from without but arises from an encounter with the Divinity which is the source of all life, all physical and all spiritual beings.

If this kingdom is so much the total mission of all creation and of humanity that is the representative of God to all living beings, to all the fishes in the sea, the birds of the air, and insects and even rocks, then it is available only not those whose eyes are not filled with things of their own making. These little ones hear the whispers of all creation because their auditory nerves are not cluttered with the noise of success that derived from engagement in the commercial and secular world. These little ones feel the pain of struggle, of the pangs of birthing, the expenditure of energy to heal and to life up those bent with the burdens of survival. Their senses are not so filled with the pursuit of the world that they have room in their hearts for that which is most important. It is gratitude for life, it is gratitude for the order and structures of creation that initiates the heart turning to its creator. For the great ones, it is their own creation or the usurped creations of others that occupy the heart and fog the mind. Thus, to find God present one must have a heart filled with gratitude and with faith in the unseen transcendence that gives vitality to all that is. That answer is available to all – even those with great power, with great wealth, with deserved adulation from the crowds. In all their achievements and accumulations these great ones must become humble, must become little in their gratitude and recognition of God’s work.

The fourth question has an answer that follows on the answer to the third question – who are the little ones? The little ones get to know the secrets – the mysteries – of the kingdom because they understand that all that they have achieved, accumulated, and receive recognition for is not permanent, is not a final value. They have room in their living to anticipate more than wealth, power, or influence. Those measures of success die with them – well maybe live long enough for children or associates to fight over the remains upon their deaths. What remains are relationships formed during their journey. That journey is a quest for either things that grow, fade, and die like the morning grasses in the desert. What lasts is the discovery of the Divine that resides within every person. In all things, the finger of the creator is evident – but we have to be open to receiving it. It is the poor, the little ones who understand and have the possibility of finding their Creator in others and in the things of this world. Not all of these little ones have the eyes and ears to discover God. The absolute need for freedom comes into play here. When a person is enslaved – by others, by self, by culture, by socio and economic shackles – they must struggle to lift off those chains. They need assistance from those who are free so they too may become little ones who comes to embrace the mysteries.

That is the word used in the gospel acclamation – the little ones have the mysteries revealed to them. The revelation comes in the Hebrew Scriptures. God is with his people in an active role. The revelation comes to completeness in the person of Jesus. He is the Son of the Father and the son of Mary. His life – childhood, adolescence, tradesman, and minister to the People – all aspects of this are revelations of the mysteries of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven. His public life is a life of service, of healing, of teaching, of creating community for those excluded. The ultimate revelation is the dying and rising of Jesus. All of life contains suffering and from this suffering comes knowledge of the compassion, the mercy, and the loving kindness of the Father. In each death, whether physical, mental, emotional, economic, or even social, there is God waiting for us to lift us up to newness of life. That revelation is central to the mysteries of creation. No death, no darkness, no misfortune has the power to take us from the kingdom. Each pain, each death carries with it a rising to newness of life. That is the mystery!

In this Sunday’s gospel Jesus speaks yet again in parables. This is a treasure buried in a field that the man who discovers its values more than all his power, all his accumulations, and all his influence. That treasure is the kingdom of heaven. It is the merchant who discovers a pearl of great clarity and size and beauty. He gives up everything else to acquire it. So, it is with the kingdom of heaven. Those who discover it during the course of their living will be preserved when they are caught up in the net of God. Those who have achieved and lived the mysteries are brought into the kingdom. Those who are without value or valued only for their earthly power, accumulations and their influence will be passing away into oblivion.

There is one final question this Sunday and it is a personal one. Where is your heart? Do the movements of your heart translate into thinking and from thinking into working for the kingdom?

Carol & Dennis Keller with Charlie dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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WHAT MATTERS MOST: 17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME A

In her recent striking article, "Voices of the oppressed must be heard to make positive social change," The Good Oil (July 2020), www.goodsams.og.au,  Sr Patty Fawkner, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, comments on the power of story, and on why Jesus chose this way of communicating truth: "Stories create an emotional connection and can inspire us to act. Stories tell us who we are and help us make meaning in our lives. Stories, rather than statistics or angry midnight tweets, can change the world. ‘Stats and facts’ are necessary but they can anesthetize whereas stories can animate and stimulate" (2).

So, to start with a story! An elderly lady in Scotland was so poor her that her neighbors had to support her. They were happy to do this. But what bothered some of them was that her son had gone to America, and had become rich. The mother defended her son, saying: "He writes to me every week and always sends me a little picture." "See," she said, "I always keep them in my Bible." Between the pages of her Bible were hundreds of U.S. bank notes, cash galore. The woman had a money treasure in her Bible, but didn’t realize it.

That story, and, in fact, all the stories Jesus told to make his point about belonging to the kingdom of God and doing what God wants, offer us a challenge that we need to take seriously. Let me tell you of one group of people who have responded to that challenge. Over the entrance to a Catholic School in Fiji, there is a large sign which reads: "Enter to learn. Leave to serve." That sign proclaims loudly and clearly the values of that school and how it understands its role and mission. That sign is in harmony with the teaching of Jesus today about what matters most. In his message to us today, Jesus uses a new set of images and comparisons to highlight this.

Jesus teaches us that the most important and the most urgent thing in life is to find out just what God wants of us, and to do it. This is what he means when he urges us to be as single-minded, as focussed, and as dedicated, as someone who digs up a treasure in a field, re-buries it, and hurries off to buy that field, so that he can have that treasure all to himself. Jesus makes the same point about priorities when he urges us to be as single-minded, as focussed, and as dedicated, as a collector of jewelry, who comes across the finest pearl in the world, and sells all personal possessions in order to acquire it.

King Solomon was one of the most successful kings in Jewish history. He was famous as both a brilliant builder and a wise ruler. Like Jesus, he also strove to know and do God's will. Unlike Jesus, however, his life-style was not completely faithful to God. It was not totally consistent with his personal ideals and convictions, either. All too often, like too many other human beings before and since, he gave in to lust, and was unfaithful in marriage, and that more than once.

Yet he got the theory right, as we learn from how he prays in our First Reading today. He reminds God that he is a young man, unskilled in leadership. So, he prays: "Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who could govern this people of yours that is so great?" God heard his prayer by giving him greater wisdom than any ruler before or since. God heard his prayer, precisely because the king did not ask for personal gain in any form. He did not, e.g., ask for long life, money, riches, power, or victory over enemies. In asking for wisdom only, it was for the service of others that Solomon prayed, and this unselfish prayer pleased the Lord immensely.

Against this background of the Word of God today, let's return to the aptness of that sign at the entrance to a Catholic school in Fiji: "Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve." There's no mention there to the graduating students of leaving to get the job that will get them the most money to spend on themselves. There's no mention there of leaving to join the ever-bigger numbers of human beings, for whom a career path is not about loving and serving others, but about financial rewards, personal satisfaction, comfort and pleasure. The message of that school motto, on the contrary, is to go out from school to make a difference, to serve the well-being of others, to make our world a better place to live in. In other words, to go out and work with God for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth - a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of goodness and love, a kingdom of justice, joy and peace. That’s exactly what God wants.

The motto of that school, "Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve", is an invitation from Jesus Christ, not only to those students in Fiji but to you and me as well. How will we hear it? How will we heed it? Will our corner of the world be any better for our being here? Will we make a difference by the quality and the quantity of our unselfishness, our loving, our caring, our helping – in a word, our serving? Will we, in fact, want to live with the same sense of purpose as that expressed many years ago by a young man called Stephen Grellet? These are his inspirational words: "I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."

In response to the message addressed to us by Jesus our Teacher in our Readings today, will we, in fact, be more determined than ever, to live as true images, true mirrors, true reflections, of Jesus Christ to others? Will we, as two of today's colloquial sayings express it, "just go for it", and "just do it"?

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

 

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Year A: 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it."

I don’t know too much about pearls, but I do know a little about diamonds.

For one thing, I know that…

"Diamonds are forever!"

That is why diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

That is why people like them – to put in engagement rings and wedding rings and symbols of other things that they hope will also last forever.

And that is why they are so expensive.

And that is why people take big risks to go and get them. Some even fight and kill for them. I am told that the biggest civil war in Africa – in the Congo –which killed over three million people was maintained almost entirely by the price of diamonds. They called them ‘blood diamonds’.

Well, most of what I know about diamonds I learned from a man who used to mine diamonds. I’ll call him Rohan. Rohan spent five years going up and down the Mazaruni river in South America, looking for diamonds. He was a diver – they get the best pay and they take the biggest risks. And he took enormous risks diving in the river. He saw many friends killed and seriously injured. He himself got malaria twenty-six times, as well as bush yaws, typhoid, dysentery, and all sorts of other diseases. But he did make good money. And every so often, he had "plenty money" to into Mahdia, the local mining town, and drink up and have a good time and meet some nice girls. At least, he always thought it was a good time and they always seemed like nice girls. But then the money would finish and it would be time to go back up the river.

Just occasionally, he would go back up to his home village of Moruka where his brother has a farm. And one day, after about four or five years of this, his brother asked him very simply: "Rohan, why is it that you earn so much money and you never have any; while I earn so little and I always have a little?"

That question really troubled Rohan. And it took him a very long time to find the answer. But, when he found it, the answer was that his brother was working for his wife and his family. That was why his little money had to last. Rohan was working only to get money for himself. And that is why his money never lasted longer than his most immediate pleasures. And right then he made himself promise that from now on he would only work for things that endure – for the things in life that are ultimately important - for the food that lasts. He had learned that Diamonds may be for a long time, but only God is forever.

And just after Rohan told me that, he looked me very straight in the eyes, pointed his finger hard at me and asked me his own question: "Father, - you - do you work for things that last, or do you only work for diamonds?"

It is a question I always try to ask myself as seriously as I can, every few months, just to keep myself honest. Because diamonds come in many forms – not just a comfortable lifestyle in one of the rich countries of the world; popularity with friends and colleagues; the approval of patients and parishioners (well sometimes!), all the nice things in life. But all of that means nothing – and less than nothing - unless it means something in the eternity that is God’s Kingdom.

Today we celebrate the pearl that we have found in our field – the presence of the Kingdom. Our hope and opportunity to find God’s presence in our own hearts and lives and through our hands in the World. Only what we do in love; only what we do in God will last into eternity.

So, in Rohan’s honor, I would invite everyone to ask yourselves Rohan’s question: "which of the things that I shall give my life for will last forever, and which are just diamonds?"

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who really is Forever.

Paul O'Reilly, S.J. <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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