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Contents: Volume 2 - The Thirtieth First Sunday of Ordered time -C- November 3, 2019


 

The

31st

SUNDAY

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

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

 

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Sun .31 C 2019

The reading selections for this Sunday give us great hope. From the Book of Wisdom we learn this about God: " you overlook people's sins that they may repent." In our Gospel, Jesus chooses to "stay at the house of a sinner", Zaccheus.

I think that when God "overlooks" our sins, God looks them over, not to ignore them, but rather to put them into a better perspective than we do. Each of us does have God's "imperishable spirit" within us, so God knows our goodness even if we falter. Our God gives us many, many chances to repent!

Jesus confirms this basic goodness by addressing Zacchaeus and inviting himself to his house. Talk about being counter-cultural, then and even now! Jesus's words ring clear and to the heart: " For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost." (Maybe when we hit "save" on the computer, we should remember those words!!)

What is it that you have lost in your journey with the Lord? Have you become totally lost yourself or really confused about something? Do you just need a "partial rescue" mission, maybe about forgiving others, your prayer life or your attitude toward those who are different or how you interact with and help the less fortunate?

No matter our physical stature or status among others or how we feel about ourselves, Jesus will seek us out to be in our company. "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost." Lord, may our hearts be full of gratitude as we pour out to You whatever it is that we need you to rescue and restore!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirty First Sunday of Ordered Time November 3, 2019

Wisdom 11:22-12:2; Responsorial Psalm 145; 2nd Thessalonians 1:11 -2:2; Gospel Acclamation John 3:16; Luke 19:1-10

The story of Zacchaeus brings a smile to most of us. He was a little guy whose business efforts and successes made up for his shortness of stature. As such he must have been proud of his successes and stature in the community. Yet the rumors about this preacher, this healer Jesus caused him to ignore his stature and climb a tree. He was literally up a tree not to escape a predator as to get a glimpse of a famous person.

But the reading from Wisdom sets the scene for the message this week. Recall that last week was a warning to us that the mere following of rules and rituals did not justify a person. Justification requires a real relationship with God. And that relationship requires us to recognize that God is God. The Pharisee, if we remember last week, was all about himself. His pride in his will power and rational ability to discern how to live according to the law made him central to his search for God. He found god by looking into a mirror and admiring and worshipping what he saw there.

The reading from Wisdom this week is overflowing with the wonder and magnificence of creation. Yet, the first verse speaks to us of how very small the sum total of creation in comparison with God is. The author tells us before God all creation is only like a small grain of sand in the scales that measure true value. Creation is merely a drop of precious dew when held up next to the Creator. We’d expect the Wisdom writer to continue in this vein telling us of the wonders of God’s presence. In face the author does so as he/she writes about human sinfulness. God’s patience is such that God overlooks, forgets about the evil humanity does because God hopes that people will repent. For in the dynamics of creation’s life it is God who best sees its dignity, its worth, and its beauty. God spares all things because all things, all living beings, all humanity belongs to God and God loves each bit and parcel of his creation. More than anything God loves all things because God’s imperishable spirit is in all things.

What a terrific thought! What an even more life-changing understanding! That God should love each one of us among the billions upon billions of things, living beings, and other humans is incomprehensible. God is so huge that all of creation is but a grain of sand in a balance measuring value. God is so pervasive that even a drop of dew is loved for its wonder.

The Hubble Space Telescope and astral physics have astounded us. The universe we thought was a fixed creation is still expanding, growing with exponential speed. Space is being created; galaxies with myriads of orbiting planets and moons and newly created and dying stars come into being. The Creator God isn’t finished, has not completed expressing who and what God is. And yet – this is incomprehensible – this God has attention to even the smallest among us. Bit by bit he calls us, invites us to share in his wonder. It is for us to abandon our wickedness and believe in the Lord.

When we think about the gospel reading this Sunday, we see the message of the book of Wisdom applied to an individual. This time it is Zacchaeus, a man short in stature. He seems to have made up for his size by being a very successful tax-collector. He is wealthy, he is wise in the ways of the world. He has made lots of money and lives in a mansion. But he is hated. One commentator states that Zacchaeus climbed the sycamore tree just to be away from the crowd. He was so hated that mingling with others would earn him bruises and possibly broken limbs. He only wanted to see this Jesus. It is written that when Jesus told him to come down from his high perch – his position of pride – Zacchaeus scrambled down the tree and received Jesus with joy. Zacchaeus was welcomed into the community of those who followed the way of Jesus. The message is this: when someone is invited by Jesus to come down from their self-made importance and status, their heart is filled with peace and joy. It is no longer the way of the world that commands activities and efforts. The continual struggle to succeed is replaced by acceptance of God. Then comes the peace and a victory over fear that resides in unsure hearts.

Among many lessons in these readings are two that are relevant to our contemporary situations. The first is that God loves all his creation. There is nothing that God created, is creating, or will create in the future that he loathes. Wisdom insists that God’s spirit is in all things. Contemporary physics speaks of all physical reality – including rocks, plants, living beings, humans, and all the material reality of the universe – as bundles of energy. Science explains the beginnings of materiality as a "big bang." That explosion of a pinpoint of energy was so concentrated it contained all that existed, exists now, or will exist in the future. That includes each of us. Such thoughts may allow us to imagine God the Creator as energy itself. The problem with humans thinking about God is that we are compelled to think of God in human terms. And thinking of God as boundless, infinite energy may help us to understand God’s relevance to us in our age.

A second thought we might gain from this Sunday’s readings is an understanding that pride prevents us from seeing God’s presence among us. But God’s unlimited love for each grain of sand, each drop of dew, each person – great or small -- is a constant call for us to depend on God’s love. In relying on God’s love for us, we can let go of that terrible un-winnable condition of thinking dignity and worth are something we achieve by our competition in the world. When we finally let go of believing that our worth and dignity are created by what we do rather than what we are, we’ll come to the valley of peace and delight. It might be helpful to recall Jesus’ first words to the disciples fearfully gathered in the upper room on that First Easter Sunday. "Peace be with you." That was his greeting, that was his gift to all humankind.

The universe is God’s creation and as such has his fingerprints all over it. Moments we take to observe and appreciate nature bring us into God’s presence. Moments we take to appreciate and listen to other persons are opportunities for God’s call to us to be heard.

We’re wrapping up this liturgical year. On Friday we celebrated the grand festival of All Saints. The first reading for that day is from the Book of Revelation. John, the Mystic, sees a vast multitude in addition to the forty-four thousand from each of the twelve tribes. In addition to that multitude he sees the great plain filled with an un-countable multitude from every nation, every race, every people, and every tongue. I’ve wondered, as I tried to vision this, how many of us would have trouble being in such a multitude because there are in it people of different races, of different languages, of different nations, of different cultures, of varying genders. Will we turn away from this gathering because there are people we just can’t accept as being God’s creation? Will we continue to believe ours is an exclusive club only for those who think, act, or believe like us? Will the old heaven and the old earth be used up by our greed and avarice so there is nothing to carry forward?

Will that be a final awakening that demands that we understand and believe what Wisdom tells us: that God’s imperishable spirit is in all things?

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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ZACCHAEUS MEETS JESUS: 31ST SUNDAY C

Today (tonight) we find ourselves in the city of Jericho, an oasis city in the Jordan valley, known as the 'City of Palms'. We smell its famous balsam trees which perfume the air for miles around. We gaze on its equally famous rose gardens which attract so many visitors. In the middle of all this beauty there occurs that deeply significant meeting between Jesus and a little man called ‘Zacchaeus’.

Now Zacchaeus is a tax collector, indeed a chief tax collector, for the occupying foreign power, the Romans. For that very reason he is despised by his fellow Jews. For making so much money at their expense through collaborating in cheating and swindling them, he is loathed and hated like no other person in town. Although Zacchaeus is now a wealthy man, he is not a happy one. Lately he has become quite fed up with being hated and despised by everyone, and with feeling so lonely and lost. Lately he has started searching for some turn-around in his life, some way to change his occupation and his life-style.

When one day he hears the news that Jesus of Nazareth is on a walkabout in the neighbourhood, and that he is actually heading in his direction, he knows that he simply has to meet this Jesus - to get the comfort and hope, the love and forgiveness, the brand new start which he so desperately needs.

But getting to meet Jesus is anything but easy. First there is the risk of going into that crowd, many of whom will surely take their chance to jostle, push, and even kick him. When he does join the crowd he finds he cannot see over the tall people hemming him in on every side. So he hits on a brain-wave. He races ahead and climbs a tree, actually a mulberry tree, with short trunk and wide branches. Just right for a short, overweight person like him to look out for Jesus!

He has not long to wait. To his surprise, Jesus looks up from under the tree, smiles and says with a touch of humour and presumption: 'Zacchaeus, get down. Hurry up. I've got to stay at your house today.' Zacchaeus is bubbling with joy and excitement as he walks his guest to his own home, and welcomes him at the front door: 'It's just so marvellous to meet you', Zacchaeus keeps saying over and over again, ‘I just can’t believe my good fortune.’

Meanwhile the crowd that would willingly strangle Zacchaeus if they could get their hands on him cannot believe what they are seeing: 'This Jesus,' they complain, 'has gone to stay at a sinner's house.' Their cutting words, however, are a moment of truth for Zacchaeus, There and then, in the presence of Jesus, who has been so friendly, so accepting, so understanding, so ready to forgive, Zacchaeus stands his ground: 'Look, sir, he says, 'I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay back four times the amount.' His turn-around, his change of heart, his conversion, could hardly be more spontaneous, more sincere, or more complete. Jesus acknowledges this when he replies: 'I have come to seek out and save what was lost. Today salvation, today wholeness, has come to this house.' Yet once more, as happens again and again in the gospels, it is contact with Jesus, that triggers conversion, that change of mind, heart, and life-style.

Brothers and Sisters! There is just so much enlightenment and comfort for you and me too in this touching incident. We see Jesus for what he was and remains, 'the friend of sinners', and therefore our friend. Our understanding, compassionate, and forgiving friend! Our friend who is there when others fail or desert us! The one who is present when others are absent! The one who helps and heals when others only criticize and condemn! The one who never gives up on us, never despairs of us! The one who waits patiently for us to change our lives, and who allows us time to do so! The one, in short, who loves us with an everlasting love, an everlasting forgiving love, an everlasting healing love, and an everlasting transforming love! The one whom. we are meeting today [tonight) in our holy communion with him and one another!

Just like Zacchaeus, then, let us welcome this great person Jesus and his ‘amazing grace’ into our homes and into our lives, knowing and trusting what a wonderful and lasting difference he will make!

So, from the bottom of our needy and yearning hearts, let us pray as never before: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul (i.e. I myself) will be healed.’

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

 

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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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