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Contents: Volume 2 - Twenty Fourth Sunday of Ordered Time Year B September 19th, 2021

 

  24th

SUNDAY

Year

(B)


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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Sun 24B 2021

Even after all these 25 + years of writing these reflections each week, I still do not anticipate the sequence of the readings, especially the Gospel stories very well. I always am surprised when one of the readings catches and pauses my thought process a little longer than usual. Jesus's question in the Gospel selection according to Mark, "Who do you say that I am?" fits that description this week.

I bow to the wisdom of those who select the sequence each liturgical year because I always personally seem to need the extra reflection time myself for these moments! Life for me and my household is probably like many in the United States: uncertain activities due to the covid variant, transition to school whether in-person or hybrid or virtual for students and educators, and seasonal changes that mean different routines and responsibilities. What a perfect time to answer that question by taking account of where Jesus is in my day and life!

Jesus also gives us a mini-course on his expectation of the attitude and life of whoever wants to follow him, that is all of us who call ourselves Christians. "Taking up one's cross" in our present day with the tragedies, natural disasters, uncertainties, and unrest, willingly rather than reluctantly, also requires much prayerful thought. It is indeed one of those opportunities to spend considerable time in personal reflection and mirror the trust of Isaiah in the first reading that "the Lord God is my help".

The second reading challenges us to express our faith through good works. Those works are the kind that Jesus himself did and, therefore, which we should try to follow. Remembering some of them, especially focusing on Jesus's attitude toward the people he encountered, will help us follow Jesus's attitude of unconditional caring for the less fortunate among us and perhaps those in need in some way in our own families. Applying Jesus's criteria for being his follower is yet another chance for each of us to check out the activities in our lives at this moment in time and make some needed changes.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty Fourth Sunday of Ordered Time September 12, 2021

Isaiah 50:5-9; Responsorial Psalm 116; James 2:14-18; Gospel Acclamation Galatians 6:14; Mark 8:27-35

As a kid I thought that Christ was the last name of Jesus. As I became older and in seminary, I thought it meant the chosen one, the one anointed to be king. In this sense I was very much in the line of the nation in the time of Jesus’ ministry. Even those disciples of Jesus who had left all saw Jesus as the King. They sought to serve him, catering to his ever whim. This pretty much tells us why Mark reminds us Jesus had left Galilee – the land ruled by Herod. He was in the villages of Caesarea Philipp, a land ruled by Philip a brother to Herod. This was a territory immersed in worship of pagan gods -- gods of pleasure, gods of wealth, gods of power. It is true that what we worship, what brings us to sacrificing our time, our minds, and our hearts, is what we in fact worship. Those things are our gods. Philip, clearly seeking favor from the Roman Emperor, built a glorious temple on a high place honoring the Caesar. That temple presented Caesar as divine, a god to be worshipped with obedience, with a share in one’s wealth, with unquestioning acceptance and implementation of his decrees. Thus, the name of the territory – Caesarea Philippi.

In is in this context that Jesus asks those following him, "who do people say I am?" It is clear the people of Galilee saw in Jesus the hope of the nation. That was the answer the disciples gave Jesus. For them Jesus was one of the prophets. Perhaps he was John the Baptizer, the answer to the promise of one who would clear the way for the Messiah through rousing the people to repentance for their idolatries. Perhaps he was Elijah. The prophet Micah insisted in his prophetic utterances that Elijah would return to announce the arrival of the Messiah. Recall, the Hebrew Scriptures portray the leaving of Elijah in a fiery chariot descended from heaven. He doesn’t die like all humanity at the end of their time. It made sense he would return and announce the promised one.

If we’re listening and thinking about this gospel wonder about the Messiah. What was the meaning of the title "Messiah?" What vision of the Messiah’s work caused such a longing in the hearts of ordinary people? If Messiahship is so important, shouldn’t we call Jesus by that name – Jesus Messiah? Instead, we call him by the Greek name for Messiah, Christ. That means the anointed one. We read in the Hebrew Scriptures of the anointing of Saul as first king of Israel by the Judge, Samuel. When he succumbs to the Siren song of power and seeks his quest for power, wealth, and influence over the needs of the nation, he sees David as a threat and conspires to eliminate him. As Saul falls prey to his temptations, David is anointed by Samuel as the replacement.

With the history of David’s royal line, there is failure upon failure. Power becomes a matter of personal privilege, resulting in disaster visited on the people. The ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s temple is replaced by the gods of Assyria, of Egypt, and of Babylon. Worship of those gods is in support of the reigning tyrant, denying the dignity and worth to people of the nation. There follows the Babylonian Captivity, a bloody defeat at the hands of Alexander the Great, the Persians, and eventually the Romans. Each brought their unique views of what to worship, to what principle persons committed their living.

At the time of Jesus’s visit to Caesarea Philippi, Jewish experience led them to think of the Messiah – the Christ – as a powerful warlord who would defeat any and all oppressors of their nation. That freedom experienced in the Exodus from Egypt, in the return from Babylon at the hand of Cyrus the Great of Persia, and in the military successes of the Maccabees fighting against Greek customs, philosophy, and gods: that freedom would be brought by the Messiah and be forever.

The common belief just before the coming of the promised Messiah, the Christ, there would be terrible turmoil. Violence would reign. Shame would disappear from the hearts of humanity. Division and hatred would move individuals into one way of thinking and faith or another. It would be a period of time replicated in the world’s experience in the late 1930’s with the rise of Fascism, Communism, and Nazism. It is similar to our current experience of pandemic, political belief in adulation of worldly cults, wealth, and subversion of rights and duties of individual citizens. When those circumstances prevailed, it was the common belief of citizens at the beginning of our common era – these conditions would be a sign of the Messiah’s coming was imminent. Those conditions and feelings of persons at the time of Jesus made Jesus the long-awaited one. Christ would be a violent conqueror, squashing all opposition and sending to hell evil doers, oppressors, and persons lacking integrity. After this Armageddon, there would come a period of peace and prosperity. Human experience over the centuries of despots and tyrants knows this is their pathway to personal power, wealth, and influence. Always despotic violence was marketed as the way to "peace and prosperity."

This is important as even the disciples of Jesus were looking for a Christ who would conquer, achieve the Kingdom of God using violence and theft of dignity and worth of hundreds of thousands. Those who followed the Messiah would benefit. All others would suffer. Violence would subjugate the hearts and minds of unbelievers and bring about peace and prosperity. The Messiah would do all the work; the people would bask in the glory of victory.

This Sunday’s reading from Mark’s gospel pitches such ideas into a mix-master of history. Peter understands the others have not yet come to know. He knows intuitively that Jesus is the promised one. Jesus tells them not to spread the word the Messiah, the Christ, has come. To announce Jesus as the Messiah would stir up the people to insurrection and violence. Conquest through violence, through military victory, was not the way of God’s Anointed One. As Jesus instructs, he insists he must suffer, be rejected by the religious leadership of the Jews, and be killed only to rise again in three days. Three days is important. Contemporary understanding of death by the Jews was that the spirit of a person remained with the body for three days. When the spirit left after three days, the body was indeed dead so there was no resuscitation or overcoming a comatose state. Thus, Jesus’ resurrection was not mere resuscitation.

Peter, clearly relishing his insight approved by Jesus, wanted to use his newfound influence to advise Jesus. But Jesus chides him for being an obstacle to the path he must take. Satan in the time of Jesus was not so much a person as it was an obstacle that could be persons, a physical condition, or a cultural attitude.

Jesus calls together a crowd along with the disciples. He contradicts the commonly held definition of Messiah, of Christ. This is no king, this is no god among us, this is no Caesar. The Christ is in service to creation. Accumulation of wealth, power, or influence cannot be the goal and purpose of life for a follower of Jesus. This Christ is not so much a king to be honored as a servant who heals, who teaches, who understands pain because he endures pain for the sake of others. Taking up one’s cross is more than reaching out for a most horrific death. Such service is over and done with even in the most torturous of deaths. Taking up one’s cross means daily carrying the routine life burdens in serving others. But no matter the length of the suffering. Such service always results in resurrection. It is a new creation.

In these difficult times, we are indeed lifted up from the experience of misery by the gifts of those who serve us to heal, to instruct, to lead, to feed, to clothe, and to house. That’s what the reading from James’ letter is about.

The first reading from Isaiah is from the "suffering servant" middle section of the book of Isaiah. Reading that segment of Isiah from chapter 40 to chapter 55 would be most helpful in understanding the suffering, the carrying of the cross Jesus teaches. In those fifteen chapters we might come to understand our sharing in the sufferings of the Christ that in effect bring healing to the destructive forces of our world. We have a role to play – that is what Jesus tells us about taking up our cross. We cannot depend on force, on violence, on manipulation and creation of alternate realities.

It is our duty as members of the called together ones, the Church, to serve as ambassadors of the Christ, to bring Christ to the world by our daily living. It’s so very easy to be misled into believing in the power of Caesar, in the influence of elders and priests who serve the world, and in the culture of death that encourages us to care only about self to the detriment and death of others. Can we truly be followers of the Christ if we worship Caesar in the temple on the high hill of Caesarea Philippi? How do we answer? Do we have the faith in the Christ so as to reside in the power of the assembly which seeks to heal, to instruct, to feed, clothe, house, and love creation and all that is in it?

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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PERSONAL versus SECOND-HAND FAITH: 24TH SUNDAY B

Isaiah 50:5-9: James 2:14-18; Mk 8:27-35

There are two kinds of faith. The first is inherited faith. This is the faith that comes from our ancestors, our forefathers and foremothers. More immediately it is the faith practised and passed on by our parents. The second kind of faith is personal faith. It is the faith of those who, helped by the ‘amazing grace’ of God, believe through their own reasoning and reflection. There are gains and losses to be had with each kind.

Those who inherit their faith have the advantage that they are not easily tempted to doubt or denial. Even when confronted with attractive arguments against what they believe, their faith stays strong. This is because of their strong family traditions about it, and because it has never been part of them to analyse what they believe. But they also have a disadvantage. They have not thought enough about their faith. It is more a habit and a routine than a matter of personal conviction. So too they find it hard to put into words just what they believe. or to live what they believe. It’s not yet a big enough part of who they are. Until it is, they may be more cultural than convinced Christians.

Those with a personal faith have this particular advantage. They have discovered God for themselves. They have reached their convictions with their minds. But they too have a disadvantage. What they believe can be shaken by arguments to the contrary, and when that happens, they may be tempted to ditch their faith, and even to toss it completely overboard. For them to keep on believing, their faith has to be grounded in something more than themselves and their thought processes.

The best kind of faith is a mixture of both inherited and personal faith. While affirming and valuing what has been passed down to them, such believers also count on their capacity to question the origin and meaning of what they believe, to think things out for themselves, and to conclude that their personal beliefs are solidly based, meaningful and helpful. For Sr Joan Chittister a particularly important question to ask and share today, is what she has labelled, ‘women as ministers of grace, not just consumers.’

It’s just not enough to say, ‘My family has been Christian. My parents are believers.’ Because an inherited faith is a second-hand faith! Every generation has to own and personalize the faith that has been passed on. It has been said that some church-goers are little better than baptized pagans. That’s unduly harsh. But just the same, we see some glum and tired, bored and indifferent faces in church, the faces of people, e.g., who come late and leave early. Words of the 19th-century philosopher Frederick Nietzsche come to mind in their regard: ‘Christians should look more redeemed.’

It’s important for us to come up with our own answers, and to be able to state our beliefs and values as Christians. It is not sufficient to repeat the official answers and state the official formulas, such as ‘consubstantial with the Father.’ For faith to be alive and influential in our lives, we have to make out of inherited faith, personal faith. What our family believes is not ours until we are walking the journey of faith ourselves, and ‘walking the walk, not just talking the talk,’ as the rappers put it. The more convinced believers we have in the Church, the more it is founded on rock, and not on sand.

The questions Jesus asked his apostles today are the most important in the whole gospel. First, he asks: ‘Who do other people say I am?’ The answers they give him were way off the mark. Then he turns to them and asks: ‘And you, who do you say I am?’ Peter speaks up for the group, ‘You are the Christ.’ He says, ‘you are the Messiah, the Saviour’.

Peter got Jesus right. Jesus was, and still is, the Messiah. But he did not get Jesus fully and perfectly right. He did not know or accept that Jesus would be a suffering Messiah, and not a military and political leader. That was something he had to learn, and learn the hard way he did.

What Peter did get right were his words as far as they went. But when he came to acting on his faith, he failed. His lowest point was when he denied that he ever knew Jesus, or had anything to do with him. This shows that we need God’s grace, not only to profess our faith in words, but also to live it, to practise it, and especially if or when we find ourselves under pressure. In fact, in asking us what do we think of him, Jesus also implies that additional question: ‘So, what are you going to do about it?’

So, for the great grace of an active and practical faith, let us pray to the Lord, both for ourselves and one another!

May the passion of Jesus Christ, and his everlasting love, be always within our minds and hearts!

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

 

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Year B: 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Get Behind me Satan."

I once knew a professional athlete; a sprinter; a 100 meters runner. Her name is Carol. At the age of 28, she was coming towards the end of her 10-year career. To maintain her sport, she worked five days a week and trained seven evenings a week. Her only time off was going shopping on Saturday mornings and going to church on Sunday mornings. She ate nothing – absolutely nothing - that was not on her diet sheet. She never went to parties, or discos. She never had a boyfriend and did not expect either to get married or to have children. Her entire life was devoted to running the 100 metres as fast as ever she could. This, she believed, was God’s will for her – it was her gift; her talent; her vocation.

She told me that, when she started, ten years before, there had been four other athletes in her group - all of them better, stronger and faster than her. But gradually, one by one, they had dropped out to other more attractive things. Carol did not blame them. But she remained committed to her ideal that one day she would get to go to the Olympics. She believed that was for her the will of God - to give glory to God in her running. In her ten years, two chances to go to the Olympics had come but she had not done well enough to be selected for the team. Now, at the age of 28, she was getting old. Her times in training were not as good as they used to be. Other younger runners were beating her in competition. No matter how hard she tried, she could no longer really keep up. And now, after every race, she was in constant pain for five days. But, even so, when the Olympic trials came round, she was fully prepared and at her best. And in the trials, she somehow ran much better than she had ever run before – a personal best….

But still she missed selection for the team by two hundredths of a second. Ten years of effort, pain and self denial seemed to be lost in a moment. There was no fairy tale ending.

Our God is not a God of fairy tales. Reality is hard and sometimes seems unfair. Sometimes even the most deserving of efforts goes un-rewarded. That is tough, but that is life.

Peter is a man, like other men, who likes a fairy tale ending. His fairy tale is for Jesus to be proclaimed King, the apostles get the big ministerial jobs and get to ride around in whatever they used in those days instead of Bentleys. And, like all fairy tales, it is invented by a man who can’t bear very much reality.

But Jesus does see true reality and sees it whole. And he knows that for the son of man to do what he came to do, he is destined to suffer. And if anyone wants to be a follower of him, she too must take up her cross and follow him.

Carol took a very long time to recover from her defeat. For the first week she was in agony, physically and mentally. Gradually, she accepted that her career was over. She would have to give up running with her great ambition unachieved and find other things to do with her life. That was about nine years ago.

To this day I do not know whether Carol was right or wrong to spend the best years of her life in the way she did. But more than any other Christian I know, she tried – she really tried - to pick up her cross every day and she did her level best.

And Carol? When last I spoke with her, she said that she never once regretted her choice in life. She feels that she did the best she could with what she was given. And she says if she had not done so she would’ve spent all her life wondering. And she also says, and I really wish I could do her South London accent, "my race ain’t run!"

And that is what I think Jesus does in today’s Gospel. He is not content to remain comfortable and popular in Galilee. He knows that he was put on this earth for one reason only - to be our salvation. For that he must go to Jerusalem. And he knows what will happen to him there. The way of the Christ leads always to the Cross. As Christians, we believe that we are that Cross - the burden that Jesus loves and to which he gave his life. Jesus has taken the burden of our broken-ness and he has dedicated his life to making us feel in our own lives the love of God. And, because that burden of love is what he is called by God his Father to carry, not even his best friend can stand in his way. "Get behind me Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s."

Let us pray that whatever is our Olympic trial – the ultimate test of our race in life – let us pray that we may go to the start line in the best condition we can be and do the best we can. The result will be whatever it is.

Maybe it won’t work out.

Maybe we will fail.

Maybe like Carol we will fall short by two hundredths of a second.

But at least we will know that that we did the best that we could do; we were the best that we could be; we carried the crosses that we were given and we didn’t die wondering.

Let us pray that we too may come to think the way God thinks.

And let us stand and profess our Faith in God who calls us Beyond ourselves.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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