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Contents: Volume 2 - The 19th SUNDAY (A) - August 9, 2020


The

  19th

  Sunday

   2020

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. --

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

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

 

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1.

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Sun. 19 A

Last Sunday's Gospel story continues today. Jesus dismisses the spiritually and physically satisfied crowd and the obedient disciples go back across the sea via boat to let Jesus go off by himself to pray. Then the disciples encounter a terrible storm.

So far, that sounds a lot like the ups and downs of life today, symbolically. Do we suddenly see Jesus in the midst of our storms? In the story, it says, "At once Jesus (appeared walking on the water and) spoke to them, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." . Many of us could certainly use a quick "at once" response from Jesus right about now or anytime we are "tossed about", even though "at once" is not Jesus's usual timing.

We and the disciples, become fearful. Peter, oh so human Peter, lets worry distract him as Jesus tried to lessen his fears...and so do we! Jesus is still there. Jesus saved Peter physically and Jesus saved all our souls ultimately.

There is no reason to doubt, but we still do, off and on. It is then that I return to our first reading, to Elijah who wants to see God pass by. For Elijah, God is not in the wind, or earthquake, or fire, but in a "tiny, whispering sound."

I really don't want God to pass by. I really want God to stay, to talk with me, to guide me, to reassure me. I'd love to feel the hand of God lifting me up from the symbolic roaring waves around me!

I don't get to choose, however, how God acts in my life. I get to choose to believe that God is present, always and everywhere. In order for my worries not to distract me, I have to try to focus on all the places I can find God, all of them. In order to do that, I really have to be sure that I MAKE the time to hear the "tiny, whispering sound" that remains omnipresent even today, even among the clatter of chaos or worry.

Where in your day can you make time for that quiet time? It has to be, even a little. Recognizing Jesus or hearing the Word of God is a calming way to go through life and not remain terrified.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Nineteenth Sunday of Ordered Time August 9, 2020

1st Kings 19:9 & 11-13; Responsorial Psalm 85; Romans 9:1-5: Gospel Acclamation Psalm 130:5; Matthew 14:22-33

The Hebrew Scripture Reading and the Gospel this Sunday remind me of my dad’s comment when things unexpectedly went wrong with health, farm prices, equipment breakdown or the loss of livestock. "It’s always something." In the case of Elijah, that greatest of prophets to the Northern Kingdom, Israel, it was a run in with Jezebel that had him wishing he were dead. Ahab the king had married Jezebel, a worshipper of Baal. Elijah, in a contest with the priests of Baal first made fools of them and then slaughtered them. That should have been the end of Israel’s worship of Baal. It only angered Jezebel and she vowed to kill Elijah. What a disappointment. Elijah’s challenge to the priests of Baal pitted the God of Israel against Baal. Elijah flees into the desert and finds shade in the shadow of a broom tree, calling on God to take his life. Instead, God first feeds Elijah and then instructs him to travel 40 days to the Mountain where Moses received the Law. God promised he would show himself to Elijah there. The rest of the story is in our reading this Sunday. Like the majority of us fighting the problems of the day, Elijah expected to see God in fire, or storm, in earthquake or wind. But God was not in any of these tremendous powers. Instead, God passed by Elijah accompanied by a gentle whisper of a breeze.

The gospel continues the story of what happened after the feeding of the five thousand. John’s gospel adds some perspective. John writes the people saw in miracle of loaves and fishes their hope for the messiah. They wanted to make Jesus King, the messiah of their dreams. Their messiah was one of power, of violence, and destruction of enemies. This was early in the ministry of Jesus; his disciples would have thought like the crowd. After so many were fed, surely this was the time to gather the people to rise up against their oppressors. Jesus first sends his disciples away and then dismisses the crowd. Then, Jesus climbs up a mountain and prays. Just like Moses and later Elijah, Jesus goes to meet the Father, to talk with him, to seek guidance in this most dangerous of moments. If we pay attention to the times the crowds wanted Jesus to be a revolutionary, a mighty fighter for freedom for the People of God, we will notice that after each such incident, Jesus goes away and prays. In this clamoring of the crowd for the messiah of their imaginings we understand the temptation to power Jesus experienced after his Baptism at the hands of John.

These fishermen certainly were skilled at handling boats. But this storm, a manifestation of the storm in the hearts of the disciples, was too much for them to handle. They believed they had come to the end of their lives. They struggled and just did not get anywhere. Then they see what they could only believe was a ghost approaching them. Was this how death came to people? Did those dying see a vision of the spirits that aided or sought to destroy them? Was this ghost evil or good? They cried out in terror. Were they about to die? Then comes the voice of Jesus, the voice they knew. He says to them a phrase he often tells them --- and us. "Don’t be afraid, take courage." Peter puts this to the test. "If it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water." No one walks on water. Water, especially water during a storm, will only swallow anyone not a strong swimmer. Jesus tells him to trust and to come to him. What do we do when times of terror, of conflict, of trouble beyond our ability to control it? We may start out into the storm confident of God’s abiding presence. However, after a few steps we begin to doubt and turn to whining, to complaining, to accusations of other’s complicity, or even turn to despair.

Looking back over nearly eight decades, I see the terror of humanity. As a child I learned of the first of World Wars. I knew of a priest who was gassed in Europe and whose balance and physical health were impaired because of it. No one could trust the air any longer. Even the air was used as a weapon to kill. I remember uncles going off to war in Europe and in the Pacific. I recall kneeling by our beds each night and praying for Uncle Leo and Uncle Clarence and for boys from our parish called up to fight. I remember the awful yellow sky after a storm on the day of Hiroshima, August 6. Then the war was over and there were DP’s -- Displaced Persons. As adult talk mentioned them, there was an air of distrust, a sense of rejection for those who were trying to come to the States because their homelands were devastated. Besides there may be Nazis hiding among them. Who could know?

Then came Korea and Vietnam. In the meantime, there were slaughters of hundreds of thousands of people because of tribal differences, because of race, because of language, because of poverty. Genocide became a frequent word in world news. All in all, our world cannot seem to discover the peace that is the promise of Jesus.

"Be not afraid! Peace be with you." There was a time when it was common to think of war, disease, economic and social disruptions as punishments from God. It was as though God was trying to nail us for our infidelity, our idolatries, our depravities. Preachers threatened us all with destruction -- a nuclear war would be God punishing us. Such a view of God runs contrary to what Jesus is for us.

In the story of Elijah, God denies Elijah his moments of doubt, of his despair, and of his rejection of a future. Even though Elijah has worked hard to bring back the people of the Northern Kingdom of the Chosen People to faith and commitment to the God who freed them from the Pharaoh, yet his work only succeeded in making him a marked man, destined for torture and slow painful death at the hands of Jezebel. Elijah looked for a powerful manifestation of God. The earthquake, the fire, the storm, the crushing wind were not God. God comes to Elijah in a whisper and Elijah understands. He returns to his work of prophet knowing God is with him.

Peter doubts and falls under the waves. "Help me, Lord. I am going under. I can’t continue to come to you." Jesus reaches out his hand quietly, not condemning, not chiding. Then they came to land --- suddenly as the storm ceased. This all happened in the darkest part of the night.

Our world is in a mess. Is it any worse than the messes we endured in the twentieth century? The doomsday clock has clicked it way closer to the darkest of midnights. Fleets of nuclear submarines, both friend and foe, cruise the seas able to release their multi warheaded missals to destroy civilization and vaporize the majority of the world’s seven billion inhabitants as well as animals, plants, fishes, and birds. And for what reason? The resources of the earth are being plundered to fatten the wallets of the wealthy and enhance the power of autocrats. A great pandemic makes us stay in the house, hiding from its theft of life-giving breath. Old people, the sick, the poor, and those who help them are dying. Even those of great wealth and power and influence are affected. It is clear we are in this together -- or we will die along.

In this struggle, we must listen carefully for that gentle whisper that is God passing by. We must speak with Peter, "Lord if it is you, let me come to you in this maelstrom." We will come to the shore and remain safe even through the terrorizing deaths if we listen to the Lord. Even though we die, He is there with us.

We are called upon to do all we can to stop this ravaging terror. We are called upon to share with those in need what we have. We are called upon to reach into our hearts and fire up the faith that has been the gift given us. The sacrifices needed focus on the common good. God has provided for us scientists who study, research, instruct, and aid us. Let not the terror of the night overwhelm us or rob us of our common sense and set us against our neighbor.

Let this song resound: "Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation." Let this be our prayer, let this be the foundation of faith, let this be our hope: let this be the rock and foundation of love for all that is of God’s creating hand.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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4.

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Year A: 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Come to me across the water."

They say that ‘life begins at forty’. Some people here may have personal experience of that. Well, when he was 39, my friend Peter had something of a bad year.

He crashed his car.

He was drunk at the time, so he lost his driving licence.

He needed that driving license for his job, so he lost his job.

When he lost his job, he could not keep up the mortgage payments on his house.

His wife divorced him and threw him out of their home. After a couple of nights sleeping rough, he took the only two options he thought he had left in the world - he went home to live with his mother and he drank heavily.

His mother was very old and confined to a wheelchair. But the only thing she asked of him was that he should take her to church every day for Mass. So, every day, he wheeled her to church, listened to a very long and boring mass with a very long and boring homily by a very old and rickety priest. {And before you ask, no it wasn’t me!} And after a while, he got to thinking: "What’s a hopeless old man! I could do the job better myself."

It was a bizarre thought for a man who only just about still believed in God. But, as you probably know, some very odd thoughts do come to very bored people during very long homilies. But this thought stuck. And every day as he went to mass, it grew - and it grew - and it carried on growing. He went to make his confession - it was one of those longer ones. And then he began to receive Holy Communion. And all the time, he found the thought growing within himself that he should be a priest.

When Vocations Sunday came round, the old priest gave a particularly long and boring homily, but most unusually, Peter woke up before the end just in time to hear the priest ask all of those present to consider within themselves whether they might not themselves have a call to the priesthood or religious life.

So, after Mass, Peter took his courage in both hands and went to see the priest in the sacristy. He told him he thought he had a vocation. The priest was first shocked and then laughed at him. Didn’t he know that married men could not become priests?

And so Peter went away humiliated. And angry! In fact, the most angry he had been in a long time. Maybe it had been a silly question, but it had been a sincere one. And it did not deserve a silly answer. In fact he was so angry that he spent the rest of the day writing a long letter to the bishop describing the incident and complaining about the attitude of the priest.

The bishop wrote back saying that the old priest was, in his opinion, one of the most holy men in the diocese, but that if Peter felt that he wanted to consider a vocation, the bishop would be happy to meet him. So, feeling a little foolish, and not really sure what there was to talk about, Peter went to see the bishop. The gospel for that day was this one - Peter hoped it might be a good sign. They spoke for a long time and, for the first time to anyone, Peter opened his heart. And, in talking about his deepest hopes, he discovered that he really did have the burning desire to be a priest - the conviction to give his life in the service of God and the service of God’s People - that is given only by God himself.

At the end, the bishop told him frankly that he believed Peter had a genuine vocation to the priesthood, but he had no idea whether that would be possible within the rules of the Church. He would see what he could do.

Peter went home feeling the best he had all year. A week later, he was called to see the bishop again. And the bishop explained that there was a provision in canon law for men who are in his position to become priests. I only know his story because I studied with him. Peter was ordained eight years ago and now works in a parish in the North of England.

There are times in life when God asks of us things that seem very hard. We often doubt that these things are really coming from the Lord at all. Might they not be coming from the bad Spirit -- a ghost -- a figment of the imagination? Sometimes, the only way to find out is to ask the Lord to tell us to come to him across the water. And when we begin to doubt and to sink, (as we will) to reach out towards the Lord with both hands.

Oh, and by the way, if you ever do happen one day to see a hopeless old man giving an utterly dreadful homily, just give it some thought will you?

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who comes to meet us across the water.

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

 

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5.

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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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