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Contents: Volume 2 - The 22nd SUNDAY (A) - August 30, 2020


The

  22nd

  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. 22A

It seems that most church going people (even we still virtual church-goers in this time of pandemic) can understand what Jesus is talking about when he said to take up one's cross . Each and every one of us has a story of a new burden that has come upon each of us and everyone we know. The more difficult part of understanding all of what Jesus is saying in this Sunday's Gospel, however, is the second part, what it means to "come follow me".

Much like Jeremiah and Peter, we humans just don't like the hard part, the suffering part, the part that requires that we must deny our very selves as did Jesus. There are countless opportunities, even as most of us still adhere to the restrictions of the pandemic, that afford us a chance to go down that path with Jesus. Even the not-so-easy to see things within the confines of with whom we live or just see in-person or virtually can be steps along that much needed way. Connecting with a look or word or note of comfort, understanding, or encouragement can really help someone who is experiencing more than enough of all of this.

Jesus reminds us of what is really important in life, this life and in the promise of eternal life. Life is not about the relationship between just each individual and God. It is not about what each of us can "gain", but more about what we can share.

"Losing" our life here for Jesus's sake means putting someone else first before ourselves. It means cooperating, not competing or complaining. It means caring, not cutting one off or down figuratively.

Since most of us are still staying pretty close to home these days, a good place to start is right there. Even agreeing on a TV show or the evening meal rather than arguing for a different one is following Jesus. So is allowing another person ahead of you at the store or in a line of traffic.

Simple, yes, but it requires intentionality. Maybe that is a concept that is all too scarce as we try to solve today's problems. Remember: he will come and repay all according to his/her conduct.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty Second Sunday of Ordered Time August 30, 2020

Jeremiah 20:7-9; Responsorial Psalm 63; Romans 12:1-2; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 11:29; Matthew 16:21-27

Religious people do not seem to have a greased slide through life. They seem to experience both the good and the bad, sometimes with great intensity. The first reading sets the tone for the rest of the scriptures this Sunday. "You duped me," shouts Jeremiah. He was a young man of a priestly family from the tribe of Benjamin. When he was called to be a prophet, he had visions of notoriety, of a comfortable life, of respectability, and of absolute security. The enthusiasm with which he said yes to God quickly ran into a quagmire of conflict with the political factions of the kingdom of Judah. It was this terrible experience of being rejected, of death threats, of being manipulated by the forces seeking allegiance with Egypt, or with Assyria, or even Babylon. It was a difficult, insecure time for this tiny nation on the through-way from north to south.

At his call to prophecy, Jeremiah was quickly disillusioned and what his calling would cause him. Instead of good news, he had to shout against the noise of the powers that existed. He spoke about violence and outrage. People laughed at his message; it seemed to them so improbable. He says, "The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day." He makes up his mind that to prophesy any more. But then the arises in his gut a burning that ascends to his heart and permeates his very bones. He cannot resist the truth God wishes him to warn his people about.

Jeremiah had a difficult life. The truths he announced got him into trouble. At one point he was thrown into a dried-up cistern with the hope that he would die there. He despised Egypt even though many in political power wished an alliance with Egypt. Unfortunately, he was dragged off to Egypt as Jerusalem fell to Babylon. He died there in a land he hated.

During the siege of Jerusalem when it was certain Jerusalem would be overrun and looted, Jeremiah took the ark of the covenant into the mountains and sealed it up in a cave where it remains to this day, undiscovered, secure from the idolatry of humanity.

So, it seems that this following of God is challenging. Where is the happiness, the security, the pleasure, and the comfort in following the Christ? Who would ever follow Jesus if this is what it means? This is confirmed in the gospel. Peter has just expressed the insight gained from experiencing Jesus, an insight that came to him not from his own powers but from God. "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." In that moment of insight, Peter must have felt wonderful. For hundreds of years, through persecution, through military defeat, from loss of all that was the culture of the Chosen People, Peter’s nation had been led to believe there would come one from God who would lead the nation into a better life, a life of security, of prosperity, of comfort, and of pleasure. There would come a freedom from domination by pagans, a freedom that would satisfy even the most demanding of hearts. In a sense, the hopes of Jeremiah were the hopes of the disciples closely following after Jesus. But just as Jeremiah was angered and disappointed --- "You duped me into doing your will, prophesizing to your people" – so also Peter and the disciples quickly lost their illusions of the Messiah.

By this time in the gospel narrative, Jesus had come to fully understand the price he would of necessity pay for the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. He knew that the elders, the scribes, and the priests would find his message contrary to their practice of the faith. They would think themselves invested in the lifestyle and culture of the time. What would cause them to rethink their way of living? What would call to question their security? For the most part they compromised their faithful following of the Law and their thousand years of Tradition. They, like so many of us, surrender to the pressures and culture of the world. They seek power, they seek wealth, they seek prestige: they seek only what is pleasing to themselves.

If we stand back a little from the moments in this gospel and return to the beginning of Jesus ministry, we recognize the temptations of Jesus. Those temptations are about power, about wealth, about magic to impress. In the temptation Jesus tells Satan to go away. In response to Peter’s temptation about Jesus ministry and his sharing in it, Jesus tells Peter to get behind him. He does call him a Satan. That term literally meanings a thing that causes a person on a journey to stumble. Peter understands the ways of the world. Surely, Jesus will use the ways of the world to set up his kingdom! Surely, Jesus is bright enough to make use of those in power, those of wealth, and those of influence.

That is ever the temptation for Christians. The history of the Catholic Church is replete with efforts to enlist the powerful, the wealthy, the influential to achieve the goals of the kingdom. In using such an approach, the Church inevitably discovers within itself a weakness, a stumbling block to lifting up all nations. Even in our coming election, the powerful know this and claim they are supportive of God’s greatest gift, the gift of life itself. Yet, in their work and policies they use Pre-birth life as the only life worth saving. It becomes a subterfuge, a red herring. All life is sacred to the author of Life. The poor are in the image and likeness of God just as are those still in the womb. The people of color are as deserving of dignity and worth as are those of European descent. Persons fleeing persecution, terror, corrupt government, and violence are worthy of dignity and worth just as well.

In this writing to the Romans, Paul urges us: "Do not conform yourselves to this age." He tells us not to be duped into denying the gospel in favor of power, whether that power be political, social, or economic. He tells us that wealth is not the measure of success or the worth of a person. He insists that fame, influence, or charismatic eloquence do not reveal the depth of God’s love in a person’s heart.

It is well for us in our time of terror, of untruth, of divisiveness, and of poverty resulting from the theft of wages from the working poor to think on these words. It appears to be an impossible task to live, to think, to care, and to love as Jesus lived, thought, cared for those on the margins, and to love all life – even the most sinful and misshapen.

Even as a young man recently called by God Jeremiah had his doubts. He shouts that God seduced him into his service. It cost Jeremiah a difficult life. Yet, as Jeremiah claims, the word of God "becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it." Being a follower of Jesus, the Christ, is not a cakewalk. Jesus urges us to take up the task, identified as a cross, daily. It is not a once-in-awhile effort. Whatever we do, whomever we meet, whatever pulls at our hearts, and whatever thoughts enter our minds, all are to be as Jesus gave us his example. His love, his care for us, literally took up the cross. That cross was not some crazy ransom to Satan. Jesus’ example demonstrated God’s presence, bringing the live and energy of God to each person. No power, no wealth, no charism has the power to make our lives whole. It is only God’s love that makes us and all things whole. Jesus loves all life, all peoples, all nations, all languages, all colors. That is the path we must walk on. If we are led to hatred of others or to the destruction of creation, we follow in the way of the world. That way seeks power, wealth, and influence through violence, through division, and manipulation of truth.

This following of Jesus is a tremendously difficult thing. We may discover ourselves repeating Jeremiah’s words: "Lord, you duped me!" However, if we understand the ministry, the words, and the healing miracles of Jesus, we discover creation and our own persons as wonderful well beyond anything the way of the world can give us. What we become can never be taken from us – not even death can rob us of God’s life. We must disavow the culture of death. We must carry the weight of the task that is a celebration of the culture of life. All else ends at death: all else is remembered in one of two ways. Either the person is known because of that person’s notorious behaviors or because that person respects others and extends a helping hand to those in need. God’s love is a sacrificing love as evidenced by the Christ and continued in the life of those whose lives witness Jesus’ sacrifice.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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THE COST OF FOLLOWING JESUS: 22ND SUNDAY A

Sunday after Sunday finds disciples of Jesus reading or listening to the Word of God. Nearly always the message from God that we hear gives us some comfort, consolation, hope, reassurance, and even joy. But sometimes God challenges us with words of tough love, and we hear something quite demanding. Without his ‘amazing grace’, we may find that particular Word from God, a bridge too far to cross. That’s the kind of message we are getting from Jesus today.

He invites his friends and followers, and therefore you and me: ‘If you want to become my followers, deny yourselves, and take up your cross and follow me’ (Mt 16:24). The word ‘cross’ Jesus is talking about has been softened. For Jesus it doesn’t mean, at least not in the first place, your arthritis e.g., your indigestion, that difficult relationship. We don’t choose those pains; they choose us. In the NT the ‘cross’ means that suffering that comes into our lives because of the choices we make for the kingdom, i.e. the choices we make for the coming of the reign and rule of God over everyone and everything. This to say that the ‘cross’ means the deliberate but difficult choices we make for integrity and truth, justice and love, peace and joy – the values prescribed by God for the coming of the kingdom of God on earth, and therefore for human well-being.

An illustration! Nelson Mandela, the Father of modern South Africa, spent twenty-seven years in prison. But before that, he was on the run for a couple of years. This is what he has written of those earlier years:

"It wasn’t easy for me to separate myself from my wife and children, to say goodbye to the good old days when, at the end of a strenuous day at the office, I could look forward to joining my family at the dinner-table, and instead to take up the life of a man hunted continuously by the police, separated from those who are closest to me, facing continuously the hazards of detection and of arrest. This was a life infinitely more difficult than serving a prison sentence."

(from his Long Walk to Freedom)

His motivation to make such great sacrifices was his love for his country and its potential. The ‘cross’ he carried was his love for his people, and his desire to see them flourish.

There’s a religion of devotion and there’s a religion of commitment. A religion of devotion tends to be a religion of comfort. It’s often centered on self, on what I get out of it rather than one centered on others, on what I do for them. A religion of commitment is a religion of challenge and risk, expressed in unselfish and generous service of others and their needs. There can be no doubt that it’s a religion of commitment and dedication that Jesus is asking of you and me.

This does not mean, though, that suffering is something Christians should actively seek for its own sake. Jesus himself did not seek to suffer. Gethsemane makes that clear. But suffering is the price we pay, as Jesus did again and again, for acting justly, loving tenderly, and walking humbly with our God. He and we, then, are not lovers of pain (masochists), but bearers of pain, borne in solidarity with Jesus, and for the benefit of others.

It helps to remember that following Jesus doesn’t have to be in great leaps and bounds but in small steps. But what does it mean in practice to follow him? It means being faithful to one’s way of life. It means showing concern for others in every way - the caring gesture, the kind word, speaking truth to power. These all count, when love turns the cross from a stumbling block, an obstacle, into a stepping-stone, and even sometimes, into an experience of fulfillment and joy.

The road to Jerusalem brought Jesus to Calvary. But it did not end there. It led to Easter. Along our Way of the Cross, Jesus supports us to the very end, and shares his Easter victory with us.

There’s a saying: ‘No cross, no crown!’ For you and me personally, how comforting and reassuring is that? Do you and I really believe it and live it? Do we?

(with some inspiration from writings of Fr Flor McCarthy SDB)

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

 

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Year A: 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

I once knew a professional athlete; a sprinter; a 100 metres runner. Her name is Carol. At the age of 28, she was coming towards the end of her 10-year career. To maintain her sport, she worked five days a week and trained seven evenings a week. Her only time off was going shopping on Saturday mornings and going to church on Sunday mornings. She ate nothing – absolutely nothing - that was not on her diet sheet. She never went to parties, or discos. She never had a boyfriend and did not expect either to get married or to have children. Her entire life was devoted to running the 100 metres as fast as ever she could. This, she believed, was God’s will for her – it was her gift; her talent; her vocation.

She told me that, when she started, ten years before, there had been four other athletes in her group - all of them better, stronger and faster than her. But gradually, one by one, they had dropped out to other more attractive things. Carol did not blame them. But she remained committed to her ideal that one day she would get to go to the Olympics. She believed that was for her the will of God - to give glory to God in her running. In her ten years, two chances to go to the Olympics had come but she had not done well enough to be selected for the team. Now, at the age of 28, she was getting old. Her times in training were not as good as they used to be. Other younger runners were beating her in competition. No matter how hard she tried, she could no longer really keep up. And now, after every race, she was in constant pain for five days. But, even so, when the Olympic trials came round, she was fully prepared and at her best. And in the trials, she somehow ran much better than she had ever run before – a personal best….

But still she missed selection for the team by two hundredths of a second. Ten years of effort, pain and self denial seemed to be lost in a moment. There was no fairy tale ending.

Our God is not a God of fairy tales. Reality is hard and sometimes seems unfair. Sometimes even the most deserving of efforts goes un-rewarded. That is tough, but that is life.

Peter is a man, like other men, who likes a fairy tale ending. His fairy tale is for Jesus to be proclaimed King, the apostles get the big ministerial jobs and get to ride around in whatever they used in those days instead of Bentleys. And, like all fairy tales, it is invented by a man who can’t bear very much reality.

But Jesus does see true reality and sees it whole. And he knows that for the son of man to do what he came to do, he is destined to suffer. And if anyone wants to be a follower of him, she too must take up her cross and follow him.

Carol took a very long time to recover from her defeat. For the first week she was in agony, physically and mentally. Gradually, she accepted that her career was over. She would have to give up running with her great ambition unachieved and find other things to do with her life. That was about nine years ago.

To this day I do not know whether Carol was right or wrong to spend the best years of her life in the way she did. But more than any other Christian I know, she tried – she really tried - to pick up her cross every day and she did her level best.

And Carol? When last I spoke with her, she said that she never once regretted her choice in life. She feels that she did the best she could with what she was given. And she says if she had not done so she would’ve spent all her life wondering. And she also says,, "my race ain’t run!"

And that is what I think Jesus does in today’s Gospel. He is not content to remain comfortable and popular in Galilee. He knows that he was put on this earth for one reason only - to be our salvation. For that he must go to Jerusalem. And he knows what will happen to him there. The way of the Christ leads always to the Cross. As Christians, we believe that we are that Cross - the burden that Jesus loves and to which he gave his life. Jesus has taken the burden of our broken-ness and he has dedicated his life to making us feel in our own lives the love of God. And, because that burden of love is what he is called by God his Father to carry, not even his best friend can stand in his way. "Get behind me Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s."

Let us pray that whatever is our Olympic trial – the ultimate test of our race in life – let us pray that we may go to the start line in the best condition we can be and do the best we can. The result will be whatever it is.

Maybe it won’t work out.

Maybe we will fail.

Maybe like Carol we will fall short by two hundredths of a second.

But at least we will know that that we did the best that we could do; we were the best that we could be; we carried the crosses that we were given and we didn’t die wondering.

Let us stand and profess our Faith.

I believe…

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

 

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