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Contents: Volume 2 - 30th Sunday - C
October 23, 2022

 

  The

30th

SUNDAY

 (C)

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

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

 

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1.

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Sun. 30 C 2022

The readings this Sunday may seem irrelevant, impossible to embrace, or even confusing. To me, they remind me that God's thoughts and ways often do not correspond to what the world values. Where do you, a Christian just as I am, find yourself along this continuum?

In the first reading, the Book of Sirach extols God as a God of Justice who knows no favorites. God attends to the lowly of this world and hears their cry. God acts justly toward them and actually towards all.

I think it is hard to look at ourselves objectively in this regard. Unless we are ourselves counted among the poor or work continuously and intensely to help them, we remain somewhat apart from them. How can we better connect with those brothers and sisters and those still questioning, not just financially, but in spirit and with good intention?

Our Gospel reading is connected to these thoughts and how we perceive ourselves. Do we feel that we belong to the "better than thou" group because of.......? Each of us can fill in the blank here with each or any of many possible reasons including our faith, our good actions, our wealth, our social standing, our education, our home, our job, our family etc. Remember God shows no partiality... we are equal in God's sight.

Equality and humility go hand in hand. Our journey toward this high expectation is a difficult one at times. Our second reading reminds us that God stands by us as we compete in the race. Will we revisit our views and cooperate to keep the faith, the true faith whose standards are so different from the world's? It is God in Whom we are justified. and certainly not by anything we do!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Thirtieth Sunday of Ordered Time October 23, 2022

Sirach 35:12-14 &16-18; Responsorial Psalm 34; 2nd Timothy 4:6-8

This is the second Sunday in a row which has prayer as the central theme. Last Sunday we looked at prayer with a firm foundation in abiding faith in God’s mercy, compassion, and loving kindness. (The term, "loving kindness" is a translation of the Hebrew word, "hesed" indicating God response to the responsibilities of the covenant.) Persistence isn’t possible without faith in God’s merciful, compassion, and love presence. That applied to Joshua’s success so long as Moses lifted his arms in supplication. It worked well with the widow and the crooked judge. We should recall Jesus insists the Father is more generous and a better listener than any earthly judge.

This Sunday’s first reading from Sirach and the gospel parable Jesus aims at those who think themselves righteous and better friends of God than others. Again, this Sunday, it is prayer that remains the focus point.

This Sunday’s selection from the wisdom of Sirach teaches whose prayer will be successful. It’s simple. Sirach seems to be saying prayers will be heard if one is oppressed, a widow, in service to God, or one of the lowly ones. Does this mean if I’ve got more than enough to eat, a solid, non-leaking roof over my head, enough clothing for changes of seasons for warmth and protection, or am part of the citizenry that enjoys power, wealth, and respect – does Sirach say those prayers go to the end of the line in the heavenly court? Should I just hang it up and go down my road knowing I’m on my own?

Just as confusing is Jesus’ parable this Sunday. Tax collectors are not the most welcome people in any social gathering. No matter how honest or dishonest they might be, we shy away from them. What about others who enjoy a bad reputation: take politicians whom nearly no one trusts, even those who benefit from the attention from a favorite politician. What about first responders whose work is often mistrusted? Their intentions scrutinized and criticized without allowing any advocate to explain. What about conspiracy purveyors? Even though their fabrications are absurd, do their prayers ever get through to God or do our hopes of their rejection actually are God’s disposition?

Perhaps this is a case where the first reading is better understood in the light of the gospel reading. In the gospel, Jesus condemns the arrogant, pride filled persons who pretend to pray to God. The Pharisee – that ever-popular scapegoat for us ordinary people – makes a prayer that is not God directed. His prayer is to his own ego. "Hey, God! I’m so much better than all these others. Even though I’m absolutely required to fast only on the Day of Atonement, I am so much better than those who only fast then. I fast on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well just to prove how holy I am! And I make certain everyone who sees me knows I’m fasting. I whiten my face and wear the shabbiest clothing in my closet. I’m required to tithe on produce I grow. But I’m better than those others – I tithe on everything. Aren’t I special? I make sure that everyone knows how much I put into the temple treasury!"

Along comes tax collector into the temple, his head bowed, hiding in the shadows. His prayer is to God, especially as no one else sees him. He claims to be "THE" sinner and begs for forgiveness for evil he committed. Yet tomorrow, as contrite as he is, he is likely to need forgiveness yet again. And this is the important part of that – even though he commits to honest in his career, he knows he needs the help of God to do what is right and just. He prays to God and not to himself. The noted Scripture scholar William Barclay makes three notes about this gospel: 1. No person who is proud is able to pray to God. 2. No person who despises their fellow humans can pray because each of us are sinners including the one praying. 3. Even though the Pharisee tells the truth about his faith practices, he makes a fatal mistake when he compares himself with others. That mistake is a fatal one for prayer. He should be comparing himself with God, not others whom he doesn’t know.

This is the second Sunday about prayer. Just like last Sunday’s gospel, there is more to the story than conversing from the mouth, the mind. Effective prayer with God rises from the heart. To have a conversation with another person (God is a Trinity of Persons) there has to be some sense of presence. God assures us that God is present with us in nature, in other persons, in the Scriptures, in the Assembly where there are two or more gathered in His name. Placing ourselves in God’s presence is the first step in our prayer. But that requires faith. In one recent Sunday Scripture we heard the words, "Charity builds up Faith. So, whenever we provide charitable works of mercy to others, our faith grows. It’s like when we practice mercy, compassion, love of others, especially those on the margins, those in need, in effect we are graced with an increase in our faith. And that faith discovers God present to us.

Last Sunday, the conversation demanded a faith in the Will of God. Without faith – confidence and reliance in God’s loving kindness – persistence in prayer is merely a chasing after the wind. Without persistence prayer is much ado about little to nothing. Without persistence in charity and prayer, hope becomes a victim of an erring human heart.

In this Sunday’s discourse regarding prayer, the parable demonstrates the necessity of knowing oneself. In order to avoid building up false self-images, creating a bogus reality of ourselves in our minds and hearts, we must develop an understanding of ourselves. We cannot fabrications, with lies. The lies can fall on either side of our real self, either self-inflated exaggerations or self-defeating denigrations.

Is this an unattainable achievement, this coming to awareness of our real selves? We know that survival in the real world is based on a positive self-image. Persons who lack a positive self-image are easily identified to those who love to victimize the weak. But how do we avoid over-inflating ourselves? Society often rewards braggarts and fools based on a false self-image. And society turns away from persons who speak, think, and act as valueless. How are we to negotiate this quagmire?

In his book, Learning to Pray, Fr. James Martin, S.J. encourages the reader to use a method he calls the Examen. At the end of the day, this becomes a review of self in relationships with the world, with the family, with the community, and most certainly with God. Here are his steps in this prayer.

Presence: Focusing on the presence of God and asking God to take the lead in this conversation.

Gratitude: Think of the day with gratitude for the events and relationships of the day: starting with gratitude overrides the tendency to focus on negative issues: this also reduces the tendency to focus on solving problems that may have arisen. Thank God!

Review: work at noticing moments when God is present: review the day in the light of God’s MERCY, COMPASSION, AND LOVING KINDNESS: "where did I experience God, where did I experience God’s invitation: whom did I love, who showed me love?"

Sorrow: when was I selfish or sinful: did I experience God’s mercy? Did I try? When did my personal baggage manifest itself – my selfishness, my immaturity, the trauma I may have experienced and that holds me captive?

Grace: This final step is to pray for God’s help. It helps to recall that during the day God is present with you and provides grace – that power that enters our person – throughout the day.

Perhaps this is a method that will keep each of us grounded in reality and connected to the God who loves us beyond our ability to experience that love. It is prayer that arises from our gratitude, our sorrow, our need for help and assistance to grow that spark of God that is God’s image and likeness uniquely in each of us. Our is the God who saves, who assists, who grows that spark to reach its possible fullness. This prayer has the benefit of keeping us grounded in our personal reality. And it takes only a few minutes before retiring for the night. Because it sums up the day and deals with its issues, it relieves the mind, the heart, and the psyche. Sleep becomes a blessing.

It's an interesting phenomenon! When we begin a habit of prayer like that of the tax-collector we experience God more frequently. The more we drift into the Pharisee’s approach in the gospel, the more likely we are to forget our prayer and our relationship with the Lord deteriorates. It’s certainly worth the effort and the ten minutes morning and evening. With practice your prayer muscles will become stronger, more supple, more flexible. It is great to be in astonishingly great shape – spiritually.

Let us pray on behalf of each other.

Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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3.

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COMING CLEAN WITH GOD: 30TH SUNDAY C

Ecclesiasticus 35: 12-14, 16-19; 2 Timothy, 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 8:9-14

I once knew a priest, now deceased, who was always telling his people that only he and his housekeeper would get to heaven. Needless to say, his congregation got smaller and smaller. I was reminded of this when thinking about the story Jesus told of the two men who went into the House of God to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax-collector.

The Pharisee is not a bad man. In fact, the people listening to Jesus regard him as a model citizen. He does everything expected of him and more. He fasts once a week as required by his religion, but also on one extra day. He gives not only one tenth of his farm products to the Temple, as required, but also one tenth of everything else he earns. He is faithful to his wife, and in his dealings with fellow men and women, he is neither greedy nor unjust.

On the other hand, the people listening to Jesus regard the tax collector as a rogue, a villain, and a traitor. There are plenty that would rough him up, if they could. For as a tax collector for the occupying Romans, he has been making money from the sufferings of his fellow-Jews, by cheating and swindling them.

Yet it is the shady tax collector, who goes home 'OK' with God, not the respectable Pharisee. God accepts the villain, but rejects the saint. We have to ask: 'What’s going on here? Why is it so?'

The difference is in their fundamental attitude to God, the way that each of them prays before God. The Pharisee does not really go to the House of God to pray, but only to tell God and himself just what a fine fellow he is, and just how bad other people are. What he says is not really a prayer, only a piece of proud and arrogant boasting. Deep down he does not feel any need for God. So much so that it’s amazing that he goes to the Temple at all.

The tax collector, on the other hand, far from standing up and telling God how good he is, stands just inside the back door. As he thinks of all the wrong things he has done, he cannot bring himself even to look up. He just keeps beating his chest with his hands, and saying over and over again: 'O God, I’m a broken man. I've been a real rogue, both to you and just about everybody else. But I need your assistance much more than I can say. Please, have mercy on me.'

Brothers and Sisters! It's important for you and me to remember that Jesus told this story to 'people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else’. For Jesus knew that good religious people sometimes have a tendency to add up their religious devotions and practices before God, and tell God just how wonderful they are. He knew too how good and religious people sometimes become self-righteous, on the one hand, and critical and contemptuous of others, on the other hand. They build themselves up by putting others down. Jesus knew too that to outsiders, to people who don't go to church, self-righteous people can seem hypocrites, phonies in fact. He knew too what a mess their arrogance can make of their prayers.

So today, Jesus Christ, present among us, and retelling us his powerful gospel story, is reminding us of three helpful home truths:

1. No proud person can pray sincerely. Every one of us must see ourselves as we really are before God – to see ourselves therefore as sinners, and yet sinners loved by God, embraced by God, and hugged by God. Every one of us must humbly ask this God of mercy to forgive our past mistakes and to give us help, healing and strength. to live in God’s way throughout the rest of our time on earth.

2. No one who despises and condemns their fellow human-beings can pray properly. For in prayer, we don't lift ourselves above others, but come before God as one of a great mob of sinning, suffering, struggling human beings. (The sense of his own sinfulness used to lead Archbishop Lanfranc, a famous Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, to get down on his knees with every penitent, and pray for forgiveness of his own sins, before presuming to hear the other’s confession).

3. Everything good about us comes from God. Everything bad about us comes from ourselves. True prayer comes from setting our lives before God just as they are. In the light of God's goodness, in the light of the life of Jesus, we have nothing to boast about. All that is left to us is to thank God for the many good things about us, and, like the tax collector, to pray about the evil that is ours: 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner. Help me, cleanse me, and change me.' All that is left for us is to heed the gentle invitation of God in a popular hymn, an invitation which Jesus is speaking to us today in our holy communion, our sharing with him.

Come as you are, that's how I want you. Come as you are, feel quite at home. Close to my heart, loved and forgiven; Come as you are, why stand alone? Come as you are, that's how I love you. Come as you are, trust me again. Nothing can change the love that I bear you. All will be well, just come as you are.

"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.

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