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Contents: Volume 2 - 18th Sunday - C
July 31, 2022

 

  The

18th

SUNDAY

 (C)

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Dennis Keller with Charlie

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

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

 

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Sun. 18 C 2022

Our readings this Sunday seem to mirror much going on in life today, at least where I live in the US and probably in many other places as well. The speaker in the first reading bemoans what many might feel when the burdens of life create disillusionment and discouragement. The "end", namely death, does not seem to be worth the toil and anxiety. The second reading tells Christians to put away the things of earth , namely the sinful things that prevent living with Christ to the fullest. Our Gospel reading describes the consequence of greed another pitfall to living a good life.

These are sobering readings, but they also call us to think deeper about our lives. Surely death does come, but Christians believe in being redeemed and the afterlife as well as how to glorify God by living a good life here on earth. The second reading also offers us a new perspective, a different kind of living initiated by the Creator, of equality of people and universality by living with Christ.

Ah, then there is the "you fool!" comment that always jolts me! It causes me to reflect on what is it that I am being so foolish about in my life right now. I think it is good for each of us to look beyond the possibility of greed to ways that just need to be changed so that we can live in the blessed assurance that if our earthly life ends soon, the reckoning will be joyful. So what are the things that God sees that we might not just now?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Eighteenth Sunday of Ordered Time July 31 2022

Ecclesiastes 1:2 & 21-23; Responsorial Psalm 90; Colossians 3:1-5 & 9-11; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 5:3; Luke 12:13-21

The sound of the Hebrew words that introduce the first reading still resound in my head. I can see Father Siebenack, that huge mountain of a man sitting at his classroom table, uttering these words as though he were at the campfire of the Bedouins in the Palestinian desert. His eyes were fixed, as it were, on the fire, surrounded by the men folk of the clan. The conviction of his voice woke even the most uninterested seminarian, and we listened, and believed. The words leap from his tongue, arising from deep within his chest, echoing within the walls of his mouth, amplified by pouting lips, exploding into that stuffy classroom, clearly an accusatory indictment of a way of living, of a culture, of a ritual of idolatrous worship and morality. The words seemed to come from a deep guttural almost groaning, bemoaning a visceral disappointment of personal experiences thus far in living. Vanity of vanities, vanity of vanities, all is vanity. The conviction in Fr. Bob’s voice left a silence in that room so many years ago that continues to echo and reecho even now more than fifty-five years later. Was it Fr. Bob’s personal experience or was it absorbed from the men around that campfire where he spends holidays while studying in the Holy Land? Does it really make any difference if it were his personal summation of the folly of the way the world measures success or the accumulated experience of these tribesmen, their wives, and their children? Qoheleth so many thousand years earlier grasped the futility of worshipping wealth, power, fame, and pleasure. There was never enough wealth to complete human desire. There was never enough power to subjugate the energies of those others. There was never enough pleasure as to have been completely satisfied and seeking nothing more. Wealth achieved was shed like a worn tunic when the spirit left the body. Another would fight to possess what this person had accumulated. Sons would learn to hate; daughters would learn how to be vicious. Cousins, brothers, and sisters would join the fight to possess what they had not earned. Lawyers would enrich themselves fomenting these discords. And governing forces would find ways to claim heirship and a lions share of the proceeds.

All the pleasures enjoyed in life would satisfy for a moment and then sought a more enhanced and expansive delight. There was never enough, they would never be enough. The memory of pleasures enjoyed would serve as stimulation in the pursuit of new and greater pleasures. When would there ever been complete satisfaction? And then age and death would rob a person of even the simplest of pleasures.

As for power, that most often doorway into more wealth, more pleasure, more fame – there was always a faction, a consortium seeking to overthrow. It seemed the only power that had durability was power exercised with unforgiving cruelty and complete and unthinking loyalty.

The agonized cry of Qoheleth was all the more impactful as it seems that this sage had personally experienced the emptiness of power, of wealth, of pleasure, and of fame. The treasure sought was full of …. Well, who can say it was full of anything? It was like chasing after the wind. Who can catch the wind – even the sails of a ship could only catch its power for moments and only if in a hoped-for direction? Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

Imagine the day in which Qoheleth wrote these words. Imagine, as well, the days when so many other successful and admired men and women come to the same realization. This sage was experiencing the emptiness of riches, of worldly pursuits, of the pursuit of pleasure. What is life for? What is my purpose, what is its meaning? The amazing part of such questions is that most of us do not get to this sense until very late in life – typically when dying is becoming a clear and certain reality. Dying is a process that leads to death. And death is such a mystery that we only think of as conjectures. The lucky ones among us get into this process of dying early in our living. We are lucky because it shines a bright light on the shadows that come to all of us. Wealth, power, fame, and pleasure are a powerful drug that covers over the pain of human existence but never heals the wounds of our spirits. Until the drug is finally withdrawn, the wound festers and gangrene sets in. The result is that we lose the dignity and worth of the spirit that inhabits and is at home in our bodies.

There is a classic movie, a story well portrayed, titled Citizen Kane. The story line is strange. A poverty-stricken couple have a son. As a young boy, the husband and wife scrimp to save enough for a sled as a gift for one Christmas. The sled was named with the word Rosebud painted on it. A wealthy, powerful, and famous man comes to the family with a deal for them. He had no children, no wife, no family. He had no time for such frivolities. For $25,000 given them, that man would take the son and train him to the power, the wealth, the fame this man had achieved. The couple reluctantly agree as the offer seemed to be in the best interests of their son. So, Kane is educated in the finer arts of wealth, power, fame, and pleasure. He achieves even more than his mentor. The end of the movie shows Kane in his palatial mansion – dimly light, in dark grays and out of focus. He is dying. In the mansion with him are two – a secretary and a household manager. They are discussing how to convert some of this wealth into their ownership. All the while Kane is gasping for his last breaths, dying all alone, his wealth and power and fame fading from his grasp. His lips mouth one word. "Rosebud." In all his achievements, in all his memories of victories politically, socially, economically, and in status, the only thought he has is the two poverty-stricken parents who expressed their love for him in that simple but expensive for them Christmas gift of a snow sled, that Rosebud before life became ultimately successful.

Vanity of vanities. All is vanity, a pursuit, a chasing after the wind.

What a downer! Why should anyone work? What is there of value, what is the purpose of living. In the gospel this Sunday, the successful landowner works to retain more, to accumulate more wealth, more of everything – likely as well more power/influence in the community, pleasure with parties for victories won, crops gathered in. He holds it all, making ready for a long retirement and a continuation of his lifestyle. There is nothing said of his family, of his neighborhood, of his community. As in Citizen Kane, is there nothing about concern for others, of love received and love given?

As we consider the world in this we live, so focused on freedom and on personal dignity and worth as clearly stated in the documents that established our nation – and many other nations throughout the world – do we experience the freedom promised, the dignity and worth declared inherent in each and every person? Do we, especially within our church community, experience, and practice dignity and worth of self and of community members? Does wealth and positions of power make others more accepted, more influential than those of few means, lesser education, minimum wage jobs? Does color of skin, language skills, technical know-how, place of dwelling, clothing worn, club memberships, model of transportation, places of vacationing, or political affiliation prejudice our personal and our communal opinion another’s worth? Are we building larger barns because we fail to grant the freedom our country’s documents insist is the right of each person?

How is it when speaking about the probabilities of elections that we most often begin not with issues of freedom, of right, of growth for all – we begin instead with the size of the campaign war-chest? Those who fill those war-chests believe and behave as though they have a greater right to influencing legislation, justice, and citizenship privileges than those who do not fund campaigns. Why is it that reduction of taxes is the often-used mantra of politicians? The Raleigh News and Observer ran a significant story about tax cuts. Tax cuts always benefit the already wealth. The need for continued revenue is satisfied by increasing fees that most heavily affect the lower incomed workers. Yet the lie of tax cuts does very little to improve economic conditions. The wealthy statistically do not increase their investments. But most assuredly tax cuts do add to the campaign war-chests of politicians. The pursuit of wealth, of power, of influence bends truth into a pretzel.

What then is the truth that Father Bob taught us those long-ago years at St. Charles Seminary? The truth is about the Trinity. That transcendent community of three is the example, the witness to all creation of what life is about. That community is a community that forms three into one. And the binding that creates the absolute freedom, the absolute dignity and worth of each of the Three is absolute and unconditional love and appreciation of each of the others. Because of that, we know of the Creator whose creative power, wealth, and influence continues creating an ever-expanding universe as evidenced by the new James Webb telescope. The Word continues to enlighten us that truth, healing, commitment is worth dying for as from that death to the wealth, power, influence, pleasure forces of the world bring us to a re-created life in Spirit and in Body. The Spirit continues to be present to us because of the commitment and love of that Word that enlightens us in our choices in life. That Spirit is the energizer, that Spirit is our life both temporally and in eternity – that Spirit is the very life of God.

And that Trinity is more than a chasing after the wind. That Trinity gives us a share in life that is not ended by death. The last hope of Citizen Kane is the love expressed by the gift that is Rosebud. Who would not rather possess that love than a bucket of gold, or the power of a tyrant, or the influence that can launch thousands of death-dealing missals? Who would not much rather on their bed of dying open wide their eyes to the ones they loved, and see beyond them with eyes blazing see the brilliance of eternity and of family and friends gone before? In those wide open, light filled eyes there is the hope and truth beyond the vanities of the way of the world. For what makes human life purposeful and worth living, is love for all that God has created, all that we can improve, all that we can lift up in appreciation to the Creator, the Word, and the Spirit. And this is not about eternity. It is about now!

Waiting till one’s death bed to have a conversion is an awful decision. For, you see, it is how we live the grand gift of life in the present time available to us that determines eternity. But even more critical than such delayed reward is the truth that living that life now in the time of our living brings us to completeness and happiness now. This is no future pie in the sky. It is about here and now. We live the life of the Trinity now – or not, not ever. The Responsorial Psalm is especially applicable this week-end.

Dennis Keller with Charlie dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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WILL WE BE SELFISH OR GENEROUS? 18TH SUNDAY C

Ecclesiastes 1.2; 2:21-23; Colossians 3.1-5, 9-11; Luke 12:13-21

We have heard Jesus say: 'Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.'

A London newspaper once offered a prize for the best definition of money. This was the winning answer: 'Money is an instrument that can buy you everything but happiness and pay your fare to every place but heaven.' Maybe the prize-winner had taken to heart the gospel words of Jesus on money! Certainly, they're both on the same track, and they both recognize that what we need and what we want are not the same.

You may have heard the saying: 'Where there's a will there's a relative.' When my mother was making her will, she was determined not to let her death give rise to any quarrels, bitterness, and strife in the family. So, she split her will exactly evenly among all eight children. In today's incident, it's clear that Jesus doesn't want to take on board any quarrel over wills and inheritance. On the other hand, he uses the trouble and strife between the two brothers to make some strong points about the use of money and wealth.

The first point Jesus makes is that to be greedy, grasping, and selfish is to be a human failure. Why? Because, as he puts it, 'one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions’. After all, there are more important values in life, more relevant and enriching values, and ones that make a person 'rich in the eyes of God'. The second point Jesus makes is illustrated in his story of the rich but foolish landowner. It's that when we die, we cannot take any money or possessions with us. Investments, savings, superannuation, trust funds, stocks, shares, bonds, and dividends, none of these will travel with us to meet our Maker. As someone has wisely said: 'Shrouds have no pockets!'

Back to the rich fool in the story! Two things stand out strongly. No other parable is so full of the words, 'I', 'me', 'my,' and 'mine'. A schoolboy was once asked what parts of speech are ‘my’ and ‘mine’. He called them not 'possessive' but 'aggressive’ adjectives. Certainly, the rich fool was aggressively self-centred. Today he might be called 'filthy rich'. The one thing that never occurs to him is to give away any of his wealth. His world is a tiny little world, bounded on the north, south, east, and west, by himself. Enclosing him on all sides is one giant ego. Instead of restraining himself, he asserts himself. Instead of denying himself, he indulges himself. Instead of finding happiness in giving, he focuses on getting, gaining, grabbing, and grasping. 'Take things easy,' he says to himself, 'eat, drink, and have a good time'. He thinks of no one but himself. His whole attitude is the opposite of the attitude of Jesus.

The second thing that stands out about the rich fool is that he never sees beyond this life. All his plans are for life here on earth. He does not reckon with destiny, that 'this very night the demand will be made [by death] for your soul, your life'. A conversation took place between an eighteen-year-old girl in her final year of school and her grandmother, who has the wisdom of many years of life experience behind her. Says the younger woman: 'Nana, I'm going to university.' 'And then?’ says the older woman. 'I will study medicine.' 'And then?' 'I will practice surgery.' 'And then?' 'I will make a fortune.' 'And then?' 'I suppose that I shall grow old and retire and live on my money.' 'And then?' 'Well, I suppose that I will die one day.' 'And then?' comes her grandmother's last stabbing question. The implication seems to be, 'don't end up just another rich and selfish old fool'. A person that never remembers that there's another world is destined someday for the grimmest of grim shocks.

The problem is not having possessions. That in itself is neutral. The problem arises when selfishness stops the 'haves' from sharing with the 'have-nots'.

Where do you and I stand, dear People of God, regarding our money and possessions and our commitment by baptism to follow the poor man, Jesus? Are we selfish and self-indulgent? Do we shop till we drop? Or are we other-centered and generous? Do we see ourselves as an island isolated from others' needs, or do we see ourselves as living in solidarity with all human beings? Do we see ourselves as having an absolute right of ownership over our money and goods? Or do we take the view that the earth and its resources belong to the whole human family? If we have more than we need to survive and even thrive as human beings, are we willing to assist the many millions in poor countries and closer to home, who are suffering hunger and starvation, even as I speak? Do we acknowledge the truth of the challenge the Second Vatican Council put to individuals and governments: 'Feed the people dying of hunger because if you do not feed them, you are killing them?’

Or is it more important to us that our clothes have the so-called 'right labels', or that we get 'the right car', 'the right house', and 'the right friends'? Would we rather be kind and generous persons, giving our lives and resources for the enrichment and well-being of others, or just another material girl or boy, man or woman? Selfish? Self-centered? Self-indulgent? Self-absorbed? Self-satisfied and Self-assured?

In our Holy Communion with Jesus Christ, let's talk to him about where we stand on our wants and needs, including our need to care for others in glaring and urgent need!

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

 

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