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Contents: Volume 2 - 33rd SUNDAY (A)
 - November 15, 2020


The

  33rd

  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. 33A

As the days of needed pandemic restrictions continue and our liturgical year begins to wind down, it seems to be a good time to take stock of how we have been spending our time and what changes need to be made to brighten the future. Our first reading praises the talents of a "good wife" of long ago. Our second reading reminds us that we must remain "alert and sober" even when others are not. Finally, the Gospel selection according to Matthew indicates that God expects us to maximize the gifts given to us for the benefit of the Kingdom.

Where does our personal reflection begin? Perhaps it should begin with how we are taking care of ourselves at this time, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In my interactions with friends and family, those answers vary as do the day. It seems that most people are on a roller coaster of some kind, struggling to maintain balance. "Balance" is a word that I use and hear a lot these days.

Keeping to a routine is a great gift and a helpmate in times when our choices might just be more limited than we would like. We still have choices though. Making healthy choices for our own well-being helps us to build on our foundation of faith and maintain a sense of peacefulness ourselves and toward those around us. Our cup is just half full.

Kindness to ourselves in a sense repays God for the wonderful gift of life given us. It enables us to be at our best. It enables us to give our best toward the many people who are in need of a glimpse of God's loving-kindness.

Whatever the gifts/talents God has given to you, it takes discernment to invest them the way God intends. Discernment takes prayer. Prayer has to start with an inner look at ourselves, where we are, and where we need to be. Maybe a good nap is in order or a neighborhood walk to wave to neighbors. Maybe it is volunteering to help at a food pantry or a quiet stroll in the woods to be with God. Maybe it is..............

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirty Third Sunday of Ordered Time November 15 2020

Proverbs 31:10-13 & 19-20 & 30-31; Responsorial Psalm 128; 1st Thessalonians 5:1-6; Gospel Acclamation John 15:4-5; Matthew 25:14-31

The gospel this Sunday puts it to us. Most of us from time to time question our worth, our God-given talents, and our acceptance by our fellow man. Some people accomplish a lot, most not so much. What is the difference?

The question is how should we value ourselves? As we listen to this gospel most of us will rush to judging the three in the story. If we do so, the message will not touch us. When we focus on the accomplishments and failures of others, we miss the point. The first step in this Sunday’s lesson is to avoid comparing ourselves with others. Rather, we should examine our intentions, our actions, and the intensity of our caring for the common good. In that examination we cannot consider ourselves as nothing. We are unique, a one of a kind that appears just once in the whole history of humankind. We have worth, we are gifted with dignity from the author of dignity and worth. In that gift is contained the seeds of talent and skill. By how we live, and in our choices and actions we grow to fullness as a unique and individualized person in the community of mankind.

For the most part, we judge others and ourselves using the measuring sticks of wealth, power, and fame. These measures have no staying power and lose efficacy when we die. Leaders measure themselves on the depth and effectiveness of their "legacy." That consists in what they are remembered for. There is Lincoln and then there is Hitler. There is Gandhi and there is Stalin. There is Rasputin and there is Martin Luther King Jr. The circumstances and possibilities of our living provide each person with the arena in which we play out our lives.

The parable in the gospel this Sunday seems simple – perhaps too simple. We should remember first of all that we are reading from the 25th chapter of Matthew. Jesus is teaching about the end times. There are two end times – a personal one when we have completed our life, and a corporate one when all life has been completed. There are four persons in this story of life lived. The master is the Messiah. The primary focus is on the miserable one who received just a single talent. He buried it, did nothing to make use of its loan. Jesus directs this to the Pharisees and Scribes. They believed in the law and the law only. They studied and researched and applied their logic to that law. There was no deviation from its tenets. There was no compassion, no mercy, no love unless it were specifically demanded by the Mosaic law. Human life was to be controlled by that law. Life under the law lacked spice: it could very easily become tasteless and only good to satisfy the belly but not nourish the person. Most would lose interest. The purveyors of law and order did not understand that human life is a matter of growth or decay. Each experience, each trial, each relationship had the power to grow a person. Using the law as a guide, the religious person would learn about God through contact and experience with others – well not only others, but also all persons and things God created. Failing to encounter God’s presence was akin to burying those experiences in the back yard, waiting for judgment to come. Jesus insists to these that life is for living and for experiencing from the wealth that is given them. Life is not for mere endurance and compliance but an adventure lived out in the light of God’s revelation.

We might better understand this message if we understand that the talent of the parable is wealth – not skill, not great intellect, not personal attributes. A talent in Jesus’ time is how wealth was measured. It amounted to seventy pounds of some precious metal. Thus, a single talent of gold in November 10, 2020’s market would be $2,101,523.20. Five talents would weigh in at $10,507,616. So, if we feel sorrow for the man with the single talent, we should remember he received a considerable sum.

All of us have differing skills, native abilities, and insights. From those with much, we should expect more of a return to the common good. That becomes the measure of success, then – not what one has personally gained. In the parable, each hands back to the returning master what was achieved using the master’s gift. Each is judged by effort expended and results achieved. And there lies the judgment. It’s not the money, it’s not the wealth or the power or the fame that is rewarded. It is the effort. Even though one may fail, it is the effort, the willingness to experience and grow the gifts gifted. Burying those God-gifts in the confines of regulation and law robs them of the vitality the Creator instilled in each of us. It is like going to a shoe-store and buying shoes that are too tight. We can’t run, we can’t walk in too-tight shoes. Those who use law, ritual, and regulation to bury God’s gifts give nothing back to the master on his return. This is not to say that the guidance of law and regulations and the instruction of ritual are not necessary. It insists those are mere starting points, guard rails along slippery slopes that keep us from falling into chasms of self-centeredness and disregard for the common good.

The first reading from proverbs supports this. It lists the efforts of the good wife in terms of the eighth before the birth of the Lord. (The compilation of Proverbs was finalized in perhaps the fifth century before the birth of the Messiah.) Some would treat the proverb describing the good wife as proof of the subservience of a wife to her husband. Clearly, anyone who reads that entire last half of Proverb’s chapter 31 will come to understand that this woman described is not a slave to anyone. She is in charge, she is dynamic, she is well respected within her family and in the community. She tends to the needs of the family with foresight, with care, and with dedication. She sees those in need and assists them. She is an example of goodness and achievement. She is one who uses the talents in the gospel and expands their usefulness. There is an equality here that is so contradictory to those ancient times, and, most unfortunately to much of the culture of our contemporary times.

Francis, the Bishop of Rome, just recently published an encyclical titled Fratelli Tutti – On Fraternity and Social Friendship. In paragraph 23 he writes this:

Similarly, the organization of societies worldwide is still far from reflecting clearly that women possess the same dignity and identical rights as men. We say one thing with words, but our decisions and reality tell another story. Indeed "doubly poor are those women who endure situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence, since they are frequently less able to defend their rights."

Systemic denial of equal rights to woman or to anyone suffering from racism has been condemned even in the Hebrew Scriptures. We often consider ourselves significantly more enlightened about truth than our predecessors with respect to equality. Yet our culture insists on viewing persons by gender, race, national origin, faith, and a myriad of other non-essential traits as inferior to ourselves. It certainly takes a lot of experience and soul-searching to get equality correct. This reading from Proverbs this Sunday should be a prod to move us out of our myopic view of others. As regards the dignity and worth of women, it would serve us well to read the entire chapter 31 of Proverbs. It would also be helpful to read Francis’ entire encyclical. It speaks to the current condition of the world and almost pointedly the condition of our United States culture. That encyclical charts a way forward for us to correctly and effectively use our God-gifted talents. There is much chaos, hatred, divisiveness in our nation and in our world. This is not a matter of politics but a matter of evil itself searching for another way to submerge the image and likeness of God with which each – each and every – human has been endowed. It is time for the sleepers among us to awaken and reclaim the Good News and live it in the application of talents that is ours.

Francis’ encyclical is available on line.

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

 

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GETTING ON WITH THE JOB: 33RD SUNDAY A

  • · How busy are you, day by day?
  • · What are the most important items in your ‘to do’ list? Is there anything important missing?
  • · Which of your gifts from God do you use generously, for both the benefit of others and for a better world?
  • · Is there something that you fail to do, or leave only half done?
  • · What kind of person are you striving to be?
  • · Do you find time to think about both the end of your life on earth, and the end of the world as we know it?
  • · Is life about looking good, or being good?

You and I are busy people. We rush here and we rush there. We do this and we do that. All kinds of activities occupy our attention. For example! There is work for a living. There is shopping. There is cooking. There is gardening. There is painting and decorating. There is study. There are children to bathe and feed. There are others to mind and entertain. There are friends and neighbours to visit and help. And when we come to the end of a typical day, there may hardly be enough time left to write a letter or an e-mail, glance at a newspaper, watch the news, or speak to God in prayer.

The amazing thing is that our list of ‘things to do’ never runs out. Being so permanently busy means that we find it hard to take the Word of God as seriously as we should! At this time of the church year, the teaching in particular that the world as we know it is definitely coming to an end! This is sure and certain, St Paul insists. It will happen when people least expect it, he also insists. The suddenness of the end of the world and of the Second Coming of Christ will be like a thief suddenly breaking into a house at night, or like an expectant mother who suddenly goes into labour.

Jesus teaches that while we wait for his return to earth at the end of time, we make the best possible use of all the gifts that God given us, for our love and service of God, for the benefit of other people, and to make the world a better place.

That’s the point of the story he told about the three employees who were each entrusted with a huge sum of money, while their employer went away for an indefinite time. Two out of the three invested it wisely and well, doubling their employer’s money. The other hid his allocation in the ground and therefore did nothing. So, when the boss returned and called all three to account, the industrious ones received fitting rewards for their work. But the one who was too afraid to take the risks of the market place, found himself on the outer, and thoroughly unhappy for simply ‘playing it safe’.

Several Readings around this time are a reminder that the delay in the final coming of Christ requires us to be vigilant, to be on the look-out for Our Lord’s return. Today Jesus is reminding us to be on the job, to be active, industrious and diligent, in carrying out all our duties and responsibilities in life, and to be active, industrious and diligent in working for the coming of the kingdom of God on earth. After all, to be a Christian is to be a missionary, an agent, i.e. of God’s love. In short, the moral of the gospel today is to do, and to keep doing, whatever is positive, constructive, and life-giving, with whatever gifts God has given us.

So, let’s remember that life is God’s gift to us, and what we do with our life is our gift to God. So, let’s make the most of our opportunities. Let’s take a chance and visit that grumpy relative; ditch that grudge we’ve been harboring; figure out a way to feed the hungry and house the homeless; take our concerns about safety to that public meeting; become a reader in church; sit with a dying friend; donate to the work of the local church charity; show special support to one’s aging parents. The list of our opportunities to do good and to do it now, is simply endless.

For the strength we need, then, to make the most of every opportunity, and to be everything we can be for others every day, let us pray to Christ in our personal and group prayer today! For both ourselves and the people around us, who just like us, have also been gifted by God, for lives of constant and generous love and service to other people.

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

 

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Year A: 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Lajos)

"Well done, good and faithful servant. You have shown you can be faithful in small things. I will trust you with greater. Come and join in your master’s happiness."

This feast / Gospel always makes me think of the worst guitarist I have ever heard play in church. His name is Lajos – and he is my brother in the Lord – a Jesuit of the Hungarian Province. And I say nothing here that I would not say to his face and, indeed, have heard him say of himself. And, as I say, he is a truly terrible guitarist – the worst I’ve ever heard play, actually not just in church – anywhere! And, trust me, I’ve heard some bad ones.

I don’t know what happens when he gives alms, but certainly when he plays, the left hand truly does not know what the right hand is doing. You get so many wrong chords that, much of the time, you’re not even sure what the right chord would sound like.

His strum patterns are so far from any known rhythm that you can see the congregation sitting on the edge of their seats wondering when the next down-beat might happen to come along.

But the thing that makes Lajos special – holy and graced - is that he does not care one whit about any of that. And in a good way. Because Lajos does not worry about himself, or his own musicality, or how bad it makes him appear in the ears of anyone who is the slightest bit musical. Because Lajos cares only for bringing the people of God to worship. So people respond to his enthusiasm. They sing when he asks them to. They find their own rhythm somewhere in his strum - patterns. They sing a bit louder when he goes off on the wrong chord just to see if they can get him back a bit closer to what the composer actually wrote. They love him. And he loves them. Because Lajos does not care that he is a rubbish guitarist. He does not care for anything to do with himself. He is never even nervous when he plays, because – as he says – he knows he is doing his best in the Lord. He cares only that his limited (oh so limited!) talent is being turned to the service of God. That is why I am so proud to call him my brother. And I wish – I pray to God – that I may have a small portion of his ability to centre his life on God and the service of God’s people, and not just on myself and the furtherance of my own (equally limited) talents.

Let us stand and profess our faith in God’s ability to use our talents, however few He may have given us.

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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