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Contents: Volume 2 - The 26th SUNDAY (A) - September 27, 2020


The

  26th

  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. 26 A

Our Scripture readings challenge us today to examine our lives and implement a radical change of heart, mind, and action. I see this as a personal challenge for how we view ourselves. It is also a wider challenge for how we view and help others.

Sometimes we humans can be a selfish, self-centered, self-righteous, and stiff-necked people. Not us, of course, we who think we are doing ok because our sins may not be so visible to others. Our ways, even in the "little" things, are often still not the ways of God.

Whether we stomp around angrily because we don't think the Lord is fair either or if we sin grievously and openly, we still do sin... and we need to mend our ways. We do that, little by little, by listening in prayer, reading Scripture, and following the example of those who are strongly committed to do God's will. Our second reading tells how Jesus humbly showed us that way.

I think 2020 is a time to self-correct and be self-forgiving. Our God is a God of forgiveness and second chances. Our God "counts" differently than we do, thankfully.

It is time to change ourselves internally from the kind of person who does things we don't even like in others to someone who mirrors God more closely in ways suggested in the second reading. There are also many opportunities to look around and to pray for those who openly defy God's ways. Whether it is a chronic liar who just galls us or someone serving a prison term for a terrible crime, let us pray that they, too, will turn their lives toward God, seek forgiveness, and be able to enter the kingdom where our Triune God awaits those who accepted those many chances.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty Sixth Sunday of Ordered Time September 27 2020

Ezekiel 18:25-28; Responsorial Psalm 25; Philippians 2:1-11 (or 2:1-5);

Gospel Acclamation John 10:27; Matthew 21:28-32

This 21st chapter of Matthew’s gospel is about Jesus coming into the City of Peace, that is, Jerusalem in the final phase of his ministry and saving event. He has come in triumph as a King of Peace with the crowds shouting his praises and insisting on his kingship. There follow instructions, the cleansing of the temple of merchants, money changers, and con-men and thieves. The cleansing of the temple set him as the enemy of the Chief Priests and the Sadducees – the powerful, i.e. the priests, and the wealthy, the Sadducees. In today’s gospel Jesus addresses directly the chief priests. He does so in a parable that has the potential of being misunderstood by some but a heavy criticism of those in leadership of the Chosen People. He compares the son who promises the Father he will go work in the fields to prostitutes and tax collectors. These two classes of people were despised and rejected as the lowest of the low. Yet Jesus does a twist when he says that these most despised and disregarded people will enter the Kingdom of God before them, these high priests who think themselves righteous and deserving of the wealth of the land and the adulation of the people. He recalls for them John, the Baptizer, and reminds these paragons of self-righteous virtue that prostitutes and tax collectors heard John’s preaching and came to repent of their sinfulness, seeking instead to live in the Kingdom of God.

It's very easy to let this story reside in history. Jesus really put it to these proud and arrogant fools. And to let it go at that. The parable deserves a more intense scrutiny and an application to our circumstances, our attitudes, and our behaviors and judgments.

First, God is the father of the two sons. The first son says, "no way, dad. I’m not going to go out into the hot sun and work with prickly vines, breaking my back pulling weeds, trimming vines, heaping manure around the stalks. Not for me. I’m your son and don’t need to stoop to the work of slaves." These are the people, these are us who have heard God’s call for working in his Kingdom and just are too busy, too shy, too self-centered to spend our time and energy being compassionate to the people we encounter, the family into which we are born, the enemies who compete with us for wealth, power, and fame. No, I’ve not got time to care about others: no, I’ve not got energy enough to accumulate, acquire, and build my reputation. There is only so much time in my days, and I need every minute for me.

We’ll note that this son goes along – for a time. Then something happens that changes his mindset. Most spiritual writers will say that this person came into suffering which opened his eyes and thusly his heart. There is repentance, there is change in attitude toward others and toward what is of lasting value in his life. He goes, without fanfare, without shouting, "hey, Dad, I’ve changed my mind. I’ll go work in your vineyard and do what is for others and for the Kingdom."

There is also the other son who quickly responds to the father’s request. "Certainly, Father. I’ll get right to it and make the vineyard the envy of all." Then he goes his own way, seeking out whatever pleases him or gains for himself things, control over others, and the bowing and scraping that make others one’s servants.

This story is directed to the Chief Priests and the elders. The son who at first agrees to do the work are they. They commit to doing God’s work and then use their position and their power to serve themselves. They accept the fruits of leadership and authority but do not work to share the father’s compassionate care. Certainly, this applies to our leadership in church and in society. The failures of hierarchy, clergy, religious, and laity to protect the young and the vulnerable in our communities casts them in the company of the Chief Priests and elders. The leadership among our economic endeavors gladly accept tax breaks that bend more clearly to the benefit of the most wealthy, the most monopolistic organizations. While the public acclaim of those tax breaks is said to encourage greater investment that would benefit the poor, the underemployed, the unemployed, and the new immigrant, the benefit is turned to the wealth of owners and wealthy in the form of stock buy-backs, exorbitant bonuses. There is no thought of the common good of citizens and those clamoring for participation in the hope of a nation founded on principles of equality and for the fostering of unity among diversity.

Then there’s political leadership. So very many enter such leadership with high ideals and purpose. So many succumb to the siren call of power and power’s rewards that they lose their way and become the sons who said yes and then ignored their commitments.

The Kingdom of Heaven, of God, is not a yet to be achieved era beyond the extinction of the universe. The Kingdom of Heaven is what Jesus established on the Cross and in his rising from the tomb. It is now. But that Kingdom is present to the universe through the work of the sons and daughters who practice the work of the Lord in the here and now. Those who are truly followers of the Way demonstrated, taught, and established by Jesus bring hope and compassion to all they meet. This is not only in Sunday church. Perhaps this pandemic is a lesson for us. We are accustomed to gathering for song, for instruction by the Word, and for sharing in the work of all consecrated into the Body of the Christ. If we leave our faith there, our hearts are listening to God’s call only an hour a week. Our faith-ears should hear God’s call in every person in danger, in each person who lacks what is necessary to flourish.

We Catholics put great stock into the idea of obedience. So often that word is used to control, to act without thinking – or without loving. Yet the word itself means "to listen" to some force, some being, some value. Persons of faith listen with their hearts. It is from the heart that comes the response to the Father’s call to work in the vineyard.

Perhaps we’ve overlooked the understanding of the Hebrew understanding of vineyard. Much of Hebrew Writings speak of the chosen people as the vineyard. That vineyard is tended by God, tilled, watered, manured, pruned, spoken to with kindness. When that vineyard only produced wild, tasteless grapes, it is worthy only to be cut down and burned to make way for more fruitful vines.

We have work to do if it is truly in our hearts to listen to God’s word. His presence among us is to bring compassion to the broken-hearted, to heal the wounded of those mortally wounded, to provide hope for the hopeless, and to lift us up to being all that we can be --- for one another. In so doing we gives thanks to God for life itself. In so doing we grow the Kingdom of Heaven so that what God is to us we are to his creation.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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3.

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SAYING ‘YES’ TO GOD: 26TH SUNDAY A

It’s one thing to talk the talk, but another to walk the walk. We’ve been listening to the story Jesus told us about a father who said to his two sons: ‘Go and work in the vineyard today.’ The first answered: ‘No! I won’t.’ But later he changed his mind and went. That story reminds us that one of the wonderful things about being human is that we have free will. Having free will, we can change our minds and make a decision to say ‘yes’ to God, and begin new and better lives.

A man turned to drink. He began to live for his next drink. Drink became such an obsession and compulsion, that he also turned away from God and his family. One day while walking along and thinking of the mess he was making of his life, he saw a bent, rusty nail in the gutter. It reminded him of himself and his life. So, he picked it up and took it home. He put the nail on an anvil, and began to straighten it out and clean it up. An hour later, it looked like new again.

Then the thought hit him that he could straighten out and clean up his life as well. That thought triggered his conversion. He turned away from drink and back to God and his family. Today he keeps that nail, now straightened out, clean and bright, in his wallet. It reminds him to stay on the right path.

Both stories tell us that as long as we are alive, we can change, change for the better. Both stories tell us that actions speak louder than words, and louder than just good ideas and good intentions. Indeed, there is much truth in the proverb: ‘The way to hell [separation from God and goodness of life] is paved with good intentions.’ The second son in Jesus’ story knows the right words: ‘Certainly, sir,’ he says, but he does not keep his word. The first son, on the other hand, has second thoughts about his refusal. He demonstrates his repentance by there and then going to work in the vineyard.

That story Jesus told us is a powerful illustration of the truth he taught in his famous Sermon on the Mount: ‘It is not those who say to me, "Lord, Lord", who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven’ (Mt 7:21).

Next, Jesus blitzes his opponents, the religious leaders, by turning his parable on them. You’ve been mouthing all the right words about God’s law, he tells them. You’ve been carrying out all the prescribed rituals. But you have not been doing what God wants. You have not been living in God’s way. And when John the Baptizer called on you to repent, you took no notice of him. On the other hand, tax collectors and prostitutes, who used to say ‘no’ to God, are now saying ‘yes’, and have meant what they said. They are now living in God’s way, as good, law-abiding and honest people, and now belong to God’s kingdom. But you, he tells his opponents, are not there yet, and you are not even close.

Jesus has a message for you and me as well. When it’s possible, we are church-goers. We say the prescribed words every time we come together to pray. We carry out the right rituals as laid down in the book. Then we go back to the world from which we came. Now there are many good and beautiful and wholesome things about our world. But there are also many corrupt and evil things. It’s a world where God has been pushed in the back, and shoved across the boundary line. No one blows the whistle about it, and no one seems to face the tribunal for what they do to God and the interests of God. All too often, in fact, rough play and dirty tricks get applauded and rewarded.

Our world has been saying to God: We don’t want you in our public schools. We don’t want to call on your name to tell the truth in our courts. We don’t want you calling us to financial responsibility. We don’t want any mention of you on any public occasion. And we have no intention of drawing back from polluting the planet you gave us.

After all, our world protests in its defense, not everyone believes in God. And with God out of its way, and out of its consciousness and conscience, our world has decided that just about anything goes. In movies and television there is so much profanity, violence, manipulation, seduction, casual and promiscuous sex. Pop music sometimes endorses drugs, rape, murder, suicide and witchcraft. Our world calls it entertainment. I call it a society that has lost its way, and is going to the hell and misery of its own superficiality, emptiness, meaninglessness, lovelessness and heartlessness.

Our world has well and truly lost its innocence. It is also putting you and me in serious danger of losing ours. And should we have already lost our innocence our world blocks us from straightening out our lives and cleaning up our act. But all is not lost. From having said ‘no’ to God, perhaps many times, we can start saying ‘yes’, and saying it not just many times, but saying it every time.

Our greatest hope for achieving this remains the person of Jesus, Saviour of the world and our personal Savior. Every time we come together for the Eucharist, either face-to-face or by live streaming, he comes to us, and unites us to himself. At every Eucharist we remember what he has taught us. There he inspires us by his good example. There he takes each one of us firmly by the hand, and leads us to both goodness of life and the goodness of God.

In him we place our trust, then, not only to survive the presence of evil and corruption in an otherwise good and wholesome world, but even to flourish, to flourish as his followers. In him we find medicine for our weakness. In him we find food for our journeys. In him we find our way, our truth, and our life. May we keep saying over and over again, therefore, ‘Thank God for Jesus our Savior! May we never part from him!’

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

 

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Year A: 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time
“Which of the two did the Father’s will?”
 
As you probably know, there are many stories about Mother Teresa. Some of them I’m confident are true; others I’m really not so sure about. But this one was told to me by a nun, a Mother Teresa nun with an Australian accent - a real “Strine” accent, so I really like to think is a true story.
 
About 30 years ago, a young Australian woman called Margaret was travelling around India on the hippy trail, seeking - as she put it - spiritual enlightenment and the two other things that generally go along with rock and roll. And one day, when she was in Calcutta, she was walking through a little dark alley a long way off the main thoroughfare, when she came across a small boy who looked about 5 years old and, apparently, had been beaten and left to die in the gutter. His little body was covered with bruises, bites, cuts, sores and all kinds of injuries. But he was still alive. She didn’t know what to do, but she had to do something. She couldn’t bear to leave him there. So, she did the only thing she could think of - she brought him to Mother Theresa’s hospice in Calcutta. And she asked if she could bring the child into the house. And that was fine. So she carried him in and laid him down on one of the beds.
 
And then she went away back to her hotel. But she didn’t sleep well that night. She needed to know if he was going to be all right. So the next morning, she went back to see him. He was still very ill. And it just didn’t feel right to leave him there and go away. So, she asked if she could stay for a day or two and help to look after him. And so she did. She nursed the child devotedly day and night. And, after about a week, as the child started to improve, she began to help with nursing the other sick people in the hospice. Days became weeks. After about three months, Mother Theresa came to her while she was working and - without any unnecessary preliminaries – simply asked her whether she had ever considered entering religious life.
 
               Margaret was very taken aback, but also moved and flattered by the offer, because she knew that it was very unusual for Mother Theresa to ask people directly to join her congregation. But she said. “Well, you see, I’m actually not at all religious. Both my parents are atheists. I’ve never been to church in my life. I’ve never even been baptised. I’m not sure I’m really the sort of person that becomes a nun.”
“Oh,” said Mother Theresa. “Don’t worry about that. When the actions of the heart are right, the words of the mind will follow.”
 
              And that, I think, is what Jesus is telling us in today’s Gospel. To do the will of our Father in heaven is not primarily about what words we say, what promises we make, or even perhaps which (if any) Church we attend. All of those things are important: they are the ways in which we feed our life in Christ. But what is ultimately important – what ultimately reveals whether or not we are committed to the love of God – is whether we go and do the work that our Father has asked of us. We may not enjoy it; we may curse; we may do it reluctantly; and we may wish that the Father had asked something different of us – but we do it because we love the Father and it is what the Father has asked of us. Just as Margaret, when she woke up that morning in Calcutta, never suspected that she was about to devote her life to the poorest of God’s people in joining the Mother Teresa’s sisters.
 
Actions speak louder than words. As Ignatius says: “love shows itself more in actions than in words”. And if the actions of our hearts reveal the power of God working in us, then the words will follow. And that is what will bring us to the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven.
 
Let us pray that our love may show itself at least as much in action as in words.  When the actions of our hearts are right, the words of our minds will follow.
 
Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who expresses His love in the actions of our lives.
 

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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