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Contents: Volume 2 - The 25th SUNDAY (A) - September 20, 2020


The

  25th

  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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Sun. 25 A

Our readings make it quite clear that God's ways and humanity's ways often do not match! The disparity sometimes is often so great that some folks might just want to give up the lofty challenge of becoming more like God. Others, because God is God, choose to rely on God to assist them in the often difficult journey.

In the midst of this pandemic, we often see "the best" and "the worst" surface in others and in ourselves. It is easy to become discouraged, grumble, and act in our own self-interest. It can also become easy to pray for help to better ourselves and to help others.

The generosity of our God as indicated in the Gospel story might not be our first inclination, we who might have grown up learning a "reward" type of mentality. Some of us may have encountered a different mentality as we have matured, one that reminds us that everything comes from God as gift, and therefore, should be used in accordance with God's purposes. That is where more prayer for self-awareness comes in.

We can fall into the depths of complacency based on what we are used to seeing, doing, even being. We may not even recognize our own faults and shortcomings or the injustice around us, especially the many systemic injustices that have come to light in the past year or more. What we can do is pray for enlightenment so that, whatever our past part in not acting as God would, might be revealed internally, challenged, and changed for the betterment of humanity.

The second reading ends with "conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ". Perhaps this week, each of us might do a bit of an internal inventory to determine through grace how closely we are approaching the many qualities of God. Ask God which quality should get prayerful attention now.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty Fifth Sunday of Ordered Time September 20, 2020

Isaiah 55:6-9; Responsorial Psalm 145; Philippians 1:20-24 & 27; Gospel Acclamation Acts 16:14; Matthew 20:1-16

Last Sunday’s gospel told us to look at other persons as of more worth than even the twenty trillion dollars of the national debt. In the Kingdom of Heaven – that’s Matthew’s instruction in this 18th chapter of this gospel – no material wealth, no expanse of power, no influence of the greatest fame attainable – none of these measures of success of the world are of more worth than a single person – any person. That is a counter-intuitive teaching. Is there anyone among us whose mind looks on each person as an equal? Do we not judge others as better than us or worse than us? Isn’t that how our hearts look on our neighbors, our fellow workers, our relatives? Do we not judge others by their wealth, their power, their place in society? The measures of the way of the world are not the measures of the Kingdom of Heaven! How do we ever get beyond considering the worth of others by their bank accounts, their portfolio of stocks and bonds, their mansions whose garages are full of exotic and expensive automobiles? There are two extremes in our classifications of others – the ones on the very top, the ones we would like to be the same as and the ones on the bottom, the untouchables.

Of course, in theory, in church, in discussions of God and faith, we believe in the worth of every human. But when we go out onto the streets, we discover there is a hierarchy of worth deeply implanted in our psyche. We place ourselves in a system of castes where there are persons who are lesser than us and who we burden with the worst jobs, homelessness, poverty, inferior education, and the dirties jobs that pay less than survivable wages. Then of course there are those others who seem to own all advantages. Their suffering consists in paying taxes on their abundance and whining about it. Yet they reap their power, wealth, and fame off the backs of the untouchables. And while they rant and rave about the entitlements of the very poor and the burden their lack of power, wealth, and fame lay on the nation, they owe their wealth and power and fame to the efforts of those in deepest poverty.

The Kingdom of Heaven is notable, exceptional, and ever so challenging because it does not create classifications. When it is lived truly, it never condemns anyone to subservience. It never grants privilege to the rich, the powerful, the famous that denies worth to the poor, those without power, or those who stand in shadow. Perhaps the Kingdom of Heaven and its ideals, its culture, its membership was the dream of the authors of the United States Constitution who wrote: "all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." What high sounding ideals! What unattainable goals for human life! Anyone with eyes, anyone whose ears are not clogged, anyone’s judgment that is just will quickly observe that even in this great country of ours we consistently fail in extending life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to every one of our citizens and others who reside among us.

The reading from Isaiah this Sunday zeroes in very clearly on our mental state. Isaiah is quoting God when he writes, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your4 ways my ways… As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts." Isaiah points out to the people of his time and to us in our time that we are easily led to relating to the world and its people contrary to the way of God. Isaiah calls those who live the way of the world scoundrels. Synonyms for that word are rat, louse, skunk, heel, snake in the grass, villain, a good-for-nothing. Isaiah warns us against being scoundrels.

In the gospel for this Sunday, Jesus tells a story about how it is in the Kingdom of Heaven. The story has two sets of characters – the landowner and laborers. The landowner has resources, has land, has money to pay laborers, has recognition as one who can provide the dignity and worth that comes from work. The laborers who gather in the marketplace are without the dignity and the worth that comes from work. They are in need for employment to provide for their families – food, shelter, water, clothing, and education. They have nothing of their own to do so except their backs. They truly are on the low end of society. But wait, there is even a subdivision of these laborers. There are laborers who have failed to be called to work in another marketplace in the city. Failing that they moved to this marketplace in the hopes of finding employment to provide at least something for their families. The landowner comes to find more workers. The landowner has a need for immediate help. Perhaps clouds have gathered and there is a threat to his crops because of an approaching storm. Perhaps there are hordes of locusts coming, darkening the sky, and threatening to steal the fruit of his fields. In any case the landowner realizes he needs more help and returns to the marketplace in the hopes of hiring more laborers. Twice more after this second hiring, the landowner returns to the marketplace. Each time he finds more laborers, those who failing to gain employment at other marketplaces in the city, and he sends them to his fields to bring in the harvest.

Even among the lowest class in this community, there are some who are more than others. The first hired are highest in ranking – they achieved work and were promised a full day’s wages. Then comes the second group who are lesser than those first hired. Then comes the third group who are lesser than the first and second group. They are followed by those hired in the fourth and fifth hiring. When it came to the payment of wages, the landowner first paid the last hired. What a mistake. He set himself up to be yelled at by those first hired when he gave those who worked only a little time in his vineyard a full day’s wages. How terribly discriminatory. This landowner provided for the laborer’s needs – a full day’s wages that would feed, shelter, clothe the laborer’s family. We may forget that in addition to satisfying the laborer’s need to provide for his family, the landowner also gave that person the dignity of work.

This just does not seem fair. This story has been applied to say that those who come into the church late in life have the same reward as those who suffered a whole lifetime for the faith. Some say that the Jews as a nation had suffered through many generations to learn God’s ways. The Christians just built on that faith tradition and the revelation that came from living the Law of Moses. It was not fair that the Christians should not have to follow the laws of circumcision and the dietary laws of the Law of Moses. That interpretation certainly makes sense especially if we remember that Matthew wrote his gospel for those Christians who came to the Way of Jesus from the faith tradition of the Jews.

But there is another way to look at the message of the gospel this Sunday. When the landowner accepts all, no matter their status, he treats everyone with equality. There is no class that lumps these participants in the work of the vineyard into all dayers, most dayers, half dayers, quarter dayers, and couple of hours dayers. That is culture of the Kingdom of Heaven. All persons are welcome and there are no castes that determine how our living is to be controlled.

Anyone who hears this, who thinks this Way of the Kingdom is an easy thing, has another thought a coming. It is not easy to accept other persons without classifying them as white, or rich, or intelligent, or Christian, or Catholic, or citizens, or homeless, or whatever other measure with which we measure others. In the Kingdom of Heaven all are children – all are equal children – of the Landowner. There is no seniority rule applied. There is no measure of culture, of language, of race, of gender, or even gender preference. All are children of the Lord. The only hope of our achieving such an attitude of life is to listen and sing our Response to the first reading. "The Lord is near to all who call upon him." Only in the Lord is this possible. Only in the Lord will we afford all persons equality and the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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WINNERS AND LOSERS: 25TH SUNDAY A

Fairytales bring special joy to children because they are full of surprises. Losers become winners. Cinderella gets her prince. Goldilocks escapes from the three bears. Hansel and Gretel get rid of the wicked witch. Princess Fiona recognises something beautiful in Shrek, the green ogre. Nemo, the clown-fish boy, comes up with great plans to swim out of the dentist’s fish-tank and thwart the dentist’s fish-killing niece.

Things are more complex for adults. We go through life with fixed ideas about justice. This comes out in such sayings as ‘if you want something you must earn it’; ‘you get what you work for’; ‘you get what you pay for’; ‘if you fall down, you’ve only got yourself to blame’; ‘never expect a hand-out’; ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’; and ‘you’ll get yours’, i.e. your just desserts.

Yet we know, on the other hand, that the most important thing in life, which is being loved by another, is not something that we earn, or something that we deserve. It’s something which is given to us, something which depends simply on the choice and goodness of the one who loves us with no strings attached, the one who loves us out of sheer generosity.

In the pages of the gospels we meet many people who start out as losers but end up as winners. They are the physically crippled, the psychologically crippled, the spiritually crippled, and the economically crippled. They are the prodigal sons, the outcasts, the overlooked, and the ones whom the powerful and respectable simply ignore or shun. The losers end up winners because Jesus makes a clear choice in their favour. Why does he do so? Simply because Jesus knows and teaches that God’s ways are not our ways, that God does not work from the mathematics of a calculator but from the fullness of God’s loving heart.

Jesus illustrates this in his parable today about a landowner and his employees. The employer’s generosity to the latecomers in paying them a full day’s wage, the same amount he paid the first workers, makes the first group as mad as hell. So they complain bitterly to their employer. The landowner defends himself with three questions to the grumblers: - 1. ‘Did we not agree on one denarius?’ he asks; 2. ‘Have I no right to do what I like with my own [money]?’; and 3. ‘Why be envious because I am generous?’

The landowner is, of course, God - our gracious, loving, merciful God, who gives us far more than we could ever earn, deserve or hope for. The story Jesus told illustrates the difference between God’s generosity and our sense of strict justice.

Every year, round about the start of Advent, our church draws our attention to the four last things – death; judgment, heaven, hell. To speak for myself, the prospect of the judgment, both at the end of my life and at the end of time, fills me with fear at times. I ask myself: ‘What will God say to me?’ ‘What will God do to me?’ ‘What will become of me?’ When thoughts like that start to trouble me, I turn my thoughts to Jesus Christ, our Saviour. I remember how he was known as ‘the friend of sinners’, and that it was said of him: ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ I remember the prayer of the repentant tax collector just inside the temple doors: ‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ I remember too the words of St Paul to the Romans (4:25): ‘he died for our sins and rose for our justification [our transformation)’. Thinking of all that Jesus our loving and forgiving Saviour has done for us, I keep placing my trust in him, and keep saying to him with Peter as he starts to sink beneath the waves: ‘Lord, save me!’

Thinking also of all that Jesus has taught about God and God’s ways, I take heart and hope from the words in our first Reading today: ‘Seek the Lord while he is still to be found, call to him while he is still near’, and from those in our psalm: ‘The Lord is kind and full of compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love. How good is the Lord to all, compassionate to all his creatures.’

There is something else that comes out of God’s message to us today. This is it! Since God is so kind to all, and since God has a special preference for the strugglers, the battlers, the broken, the lost, the lonely, and the losers of this world, and does everything possible to make the last came first, so should we. So the children in our parish community should not be judging other kids by their looks, or whether they get to play sport for the school, or whether they wear the latest jeans or sports shoes. None of us should feel smug or superior or contemptuous towards someone who lives in a fibro house, or works in a factory, or earns less than we do, or who cannot afford full school fees. Or towards someone who makes their great come-back to God only on their death-bed, or towards somebody who has only recently joined our church, or towards people who have come among us only recently as migrants, asylum-seekers or refugees.

In fact, there is only one standard to follow in all our dealings with others. This is the standard of the acceptance, the welcome, the goodness, the graciousness, the kindness, the mercy, and the generosity of God. As a matter of fact, does it not all boil down to that WWJD question, ‘What would Jesus do?’

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

 

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Year A: 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Why be envious because I am generous? Thus the last will be first, and the first last."

"Qué es lo mejor para el Senor?"

There is a story that I like to tell to readers, Eucharistic ministers, musicians and all others who serve in church and who worry, sometimes with justification, about whether or not their talents are really sufficient for what they are being asked to do. Anybody who tries to serve in Church always worries that there must be many other people in this congregation who could do much better than them at whatever happens to be their job and so surely should replace them.

Eucharistic ministers wonder if they are holy enough;

Readers worry if they are loud enough;

Offertory ministers worry if they look generous enough;

Greeters wonder if they smile enough;

Sacristans worry if they are organised enough;

Altar servers worry if they look good enough.

And as for musicians! Well, let me tell you that’s a whole different category of performance anxiety! As someone who has twice had to sing a solo in front of a large congregation, I assure you that there is no greater terror imaginable. The Spirit may be willing but the voice is always weak.

And so it goes on. All of us – and just let me assure you that I include myself in this all the way - each and every one of us who attempts to serve the Lord in church wonders whether surely there must be somebody else who would do this much better.

And that is always the wrong question. Because it is a question directed inwards towards our own weaknesses, insecurities and fear of failure and not outward towards the needs of the people of God.

And the nice thing is that there is a cure. It comes from a man who shared all of those insecurities and plenty more. He was a man who wanted to live his life for God and he found that this often required of him things that he was not good at. Even though he was very badly educated and could barely read or write, he found himself required to study philosophy and theology at degree level. So he had to begin again, as a 30-year old man, by studying Latin (never his best thing) in a class of 11-year-olds. And, so it is recorded, he came bottom of that class. But he had the grace not to worry about how he looked to others and only to consider how he looked to God. His name, of course, was St Ignatius of Loyola, though he knew himself rather more simply as ‘Inigo’.

But this particular story does not come from that time, but from much, much later in his life, when he was the Superior General, the man in overall charge of a large, newly founded, vibrant and growing religious order with many hundreds of committed apostles open to being sent wherever Ignatius believed the greatest opportunities lay for the work of God. And the story is told by his biographer, that a newly entered novice was once required to sit at the back of a talk that Ignatius was giving and, without fear or favour, to note down all of the grammatical and other language mistakes made by the great man.

And at the end, even with the exercise of as much latitude as honesty permitted, the novice’s list of corrections was long. Rather fearfully, he approached the great man and showed him the listing of all his mistakes. Ignatius went through it carefully and then uttered the sort of words which you don’t have to be a great saint to say aloud, but I think it probably helps:

"Que es lo mejor para el Senor? Otra vez!

- what is the best we can do for the Lord? We go again!

Ultimately for all servants of the Lord’s Mission, priests, readers, eucharistic ministers, deacons, sacristans, musicians, whoever - the only thing that ultimately matters is whether we devote ourselves as sincerely as possible to the service of the Lord rather than the service of our own useless anxieties.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who calls us beyond ourselves to serve His People.

Paul O’Reilly, SJ <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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