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Contents: Volume 2 - Thirty-First Sunday of Ordered Time Year B October 31st, 2021

 

31st

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. 31 B 2021

In the Gospel selection according to Mark, Jesus instructs us to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. To me, that means that God needs to be in the center of my life, in all I do and not do, in all things that affect me and my neighbor. It also means that I need to include the challenges I face in how I love God and my neighbor.

Reflecting on the totality of what is "supposed to be" changes how I pray and view things a bit. There is no problem when I am full of creativity and enthusiasm and have lots of stamina. I thank God for those blessings and the fruits they bring forth for the Kingdom.

It seems a bit different when I am out of energy, confused, struggling or just in the wrong place spiritually. I do ask for help, but.... Right then is where I think I need to be loving God with the totality of myself, especially when I am in that state, loving God to direct me to where I need to be, either right there for the time being or pushed in another direction. It seems to me, as I try to reflect a bit more and gain some personal clarity, acknowledging a deeper level of trust in God often goes unspoken/unprayed.

I realize that my prayer also affects how I treat others as my neighbors. This emerging reflection helps me understand more about others in their imperfections as well as a bit more about myself. A new question emerges as I try to incorporate all of this into my life more intentionally: "How might God see this situation, right now, with me being just as I am and this other person just as that person is?"

One important recollection that comes to my mind is that God is God and I am not! I must love and praise all that God is and then trust that I am in God's care regardless of my own perception of where I am spiritually. In God's eyes, people are all equal. My actions and empathy towards others should reflect that truth as well. Lots to think about and pray about...as always with love!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirty First Sunday of Ordered Time October 31, 2021

Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Responsorial Psalm 18; Letter to the Hebrews 7:23-28; Gospel Acclamation John 14:23; Mark 12:28-34

Writing about the readings this Sunday, the thirty first in ordered time, is difficult in the extreme. There is too much to think about, too much to pray about, too much to engage with. As the hymn sings – "There’s a wideness to God’s Mercy." But leaving God as mystery can often devolve into magical thinking or superstition. We must struggle to expand through faith and reason the Scriptures this Sunday. The hinge pin for such understanding is to insist God is always with us, walking, as it were, in our shadows following us while yet before us lighting our way as does the sun during daytime and the moon at night. Why does the Church link these three readings that boggle even the most intelligent, the most sainted, the most faith-filled person? Just maybe, it is because we are coming to the end of our liturgical year featuring Mark’s gospel. The readings this Sunday are the Teacher summarizing his life of ministry, of healing, of preaching, and of witnessing.

The narrative of Moses teaching the people how to live begins with the admonition "Hear, oh Israel, The Lord is our God, the Lord alone." That is the beginning of synagogue services and prayers in the home even now more than three thousand years later. The phrase is called the "Shema." These words are printed on paper and inserted in small boxes that are attached to foreheads. That what the phylacteries were. These same boxes are at the entrances to Jewish homes and to the doorways in Jewish homes. It is a reminder to them of their faith, their hope, and their very strength as a community.

Moses instructs the people to "fear the Lord." Oh, would that translations would more accurately express the meaning of this "fear of the Lord!" Many a parent experiences this "fear of the Lord" when standing near the crib of their infant child. Viewing this new life, ten fingers, ten little toes, the rise and fall of chest in breathing in and breathing out – what a miracle! That experience, that emotion, that realization of new life is an experience of the "fear of the Lord." We should better translate that phrase as "how awesome is the Lord, creator, giver of life!"

What a wonderful understanding to the faith that came to us through the Jewish faith tradition! That understanding continues in Jewish faith, in Christian faith, and in Islamic faith. Even so, what a contradiction to our faith is the Charlottesville debacle of white supremacy when those crowds of torch bears shouted, "The Jews shall not replace us!" The fear of being replaced as majority by persons of different color, different faith traditions, or differing national origins fuels the emotions of persons unsure of their own worth and dignity. Also, that mob in Charlottesville shouted, "blood and soil." This was the chant of the Nazis in the 1930’s in Germany. "Blood" related to purity of persons of the Arian race. Soil had to do with nationalism. Such is the visible expression of racism. Throughout the centuries of Christianity, the Jews were scapegoated for bad things that came to nations. The terrible conspiracy stories that were rampant during times of great stress initiated a persecution that slaughtered thousands of innocent members of the Jewish faith and heritage. It was an excuse for looting the achievements of those peoples. The Christian excuse for this was that the nation were Christ-killers.

What a travesty! The Gospels are very clear on the responsibility for this failure of truth and justice. The religious leaderships and its governing body created a conspiracy story that created a reason for condemning Jesus to death. It was the Roman occupational forces that seized on the conspiracy theory to make an example of this healer, this preacher, this Messiah. The complicit guilt of the crowds gathered by religious leadership consisted in allowing themselves to accept lies as truth, ambition of corrupt leadership as God’s will. Jesus became the scapegoat, a rallying point for those who would divide his followers from those who did not know Jesus. Those corrupt leaders, religious and civil, worshiped power. Throughout history, even now, this pattern continues. It is fully exposed by the current global movement to autocracy. To achieve tyrannical power, one must deny the dignity and worth of persons and of all that God created. There must be a scapegoat.

Moses’ instruction to love God above all things and one’s neighbor as oneself remains our touchstone for faith in action. Whatever stirs our hearts and then our minds to hatred and divisiveness is not of God. The forces of evil work diligently to make market corruption like the serpent did Eve’s apple; pleasing to the eye and something good to consume. The forces of evil always seek to rob us of the freedom God wills for us. It holds us captive by arousing frightened emotions and creating fabrications of alternate truths that scapegoat.

The Responsorial Psalm is a fervent plea and a recognition of our need for God’s presence and strength. As one homilist stated last Sunday, "I need Jesus."

The letter to the Hebrews makes sense only if we understand the liturgies of Judaism. Once each year the High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies which contained the ark of the covenant. There he would sprinkle the blood of sacrifices on the ark. The blood from that same sacrifice was sprinkled on the people gathered on that Day of At-One-Ment. It was meant to signify that God and the nation lived under the same agreement, actually under the same life. Our Eucharist is a further advancement of that understanding. For it is the blood of the Christ poured out that we share within the community. It is that blood, the Blood of the Son of God/Son of Man that gives us life, a unified life in the community of faithful. Thus, our going and our coming are in fact bringing the Savior, the Christ, to all the corners of our existence, of all the moments and relationships of our days. We are baptized as priests whose living lifts up all creation to a share in the life of God. This is hard thinking: this is a stretch for most of us. We are very accustomed to keeping God in a building and a tabernacle. How very confining and limiting is such thinking.

In the gospel, there is a hidden conflict. The Scribes were the community of those who studied the law of Moses, seeking to understand and apply that revelation of God’s Will to all the moments of daily living. The Sadducees were the capitalists of that society, and they were often in conflict with the Scribes. Jesus answered this particular Scribe with the words from the Book of Deuteronomy. Those words are filled with layers of truth and faith. The first commandment is to Love God. The question becomes, how can one love what one cannot see? How can one know one loved God when we rely totally on our senses to know and relate to others? Isn’t that statement from Deuteronomy pretty much a lot of fluff that appeals to the dreamers among us? How do we know God so that we can love God?

That is a problem. How do we know God? Right in our faces, there is creation. The little bit we experience of the totality of the beauty, complexity, interrelatedness of creation in our little corner of the world is a start. When we look up from the ground that supports our feet, feeds our stomachs, moves our hearts with its beauty, we look into the face of an expanding universe – expanding at exponential rates – space is being created even now, new galaxies, new stars, new planets. It is as though God cannot be contained in just the Milky Way galaxy. Think then of the billions of persons alive on this earth – around seven and a half billion we are told. But think of the billions who have preceded us – each unique and never again repeated. As we turn our gaze from all physical creation, we see the work of human hands that have dominated creation. Domination is not meant either here or in the Creation narratives in the sense of an occupying army. Such dominion is the charge of the Creator to manage, making fruitful all creation. Domination that is destruction occurs when we act like angry toddlers. In creating economies, communities, health care, education, and even technology we see another part of ourselves. We are creative, we seek to understand complexity and discover our place. Then we look yet again this time away from intelligence and into our hearts. It is in the heart that we come closest to "seeing" God. The heart holds positive relationships and provide the energy to form those relationships. In those relationships we come to know ourselves – yes, ourselves – in the eyes of the other caring about us. That sight encourages us to reach out for goodness and for self-completion in relationships with the other. And that "other" includes the greatest other, God. Pretty fantastical stuff, all that. And that is how we have a right and a way to Love God, heart and soul, mind, and strength. Oh, what a job all that is! We must be on our toes constantly to avoid ever looking at others as victims to our need for status, for wealth, for power. And how difficult that is! The "other" includes creation itself as creation is an expression of what God is. To abuse others – persons and creation – is to sin. And in sinning we fail ourselves and lose the uniqueness and wonder that we are. We turn to emptiness and to death itself.

Thus, in discovering God in creation and especially in the other, we have a reason and the energy to love the other. In loving the other – whether God or person or created beings, plants, and things – we come to know who we are and can be a gift to the other – actually to all others, whether God, persons, or all the rest.

When we come to live in accordance with those two great commandments, we discover an abiding sense of peace. That is a peace no one can ever take from us, no matter the abuse, no matter the torture, no matter the scapegoating we endure. That is the peace of the martyrs of old and of now. The answer is love itself – oh!

Isn’t that the eternal life of God as we know it? Is not love which enlivens and causes the creative instincts of the Father, the ministry of the Son, and the wisdom of the Spirit that guides us? Isn’t it love that makes the relational persons of the Trinity so tightly bound together that the Jewish Mantra "He is One and there is no other?"

Human life is a work in progress as community but just as certainly as individuals. Church is at its core a community of practicing faith and love. Let us not be hesitant to embrace our community, knowing that its heart and blood and its head is Jesus, Son of God/Son of Man.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE: 31st SUNDAY B

Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 12:28-34

Jesus has just told you and me what is the most important thing in the world. It’s to be a loving person. So, we are meant to love our God with our whole self, i.e., with our entire mind, heart, and will - in fact, with every fiber of our being. The second part of being a loving person is to love and care for our neighbor every as much as we love and care for ourselves.

It’s only right that we should do so. After all, God has loved us first. The very fact that we are alive and here today is because our God has loved us into life. In the second place, Jesus calls us to love God with our entire being because his whole life and death have been a manifestation and outpouring of God’s tender love for every single one of us. Being loved into life by God as both our Creator and Redeemer, we are called to mirror and reflect the love that has made and redeemed us, by reaching out in love to other persons.

Reaching out to others with loving hearts involves our emotions. We feel for the different people in our lives. But what is more important than any feelings we have about them is that we act for their well-being and happiness. When e.g., the gospels speak of the love in the heart of Jesus, they highlight his specific acts of kindness and generosity. To put this in a personal way: In loving another person I value that person. I value that person so much that I seek through my resources, whatever they may be, to assist him or her in their wellbeing, happiness and development. I will seek to do so in concrete and practical ways. In the process, I will extend myself beyond my personal needs, interests and concerns, to the interests, concerns and needs of the person I am seeking to assist.

This approach to loving one’s neighbor as another self is the opposite of selfishness and self-preoccupation. It overcomes a natural and inborn tendency to think of myself first, to put my needs before the needs of anyone else, and to keep telling myself that they must paddle their own canoe and I mustn’t get involved. So, it overcomes our instinct to keep thinking: ‘Just mind your own business!’ even when that other person in my life is in acute pain and needs me in the here and now. But when I truly care for another person, I put the needs of that other person first, and let their needs influence my personal choices, priorities and actions.

For us Christians, our concrete ways of loving others are intimately connected with our love for God. Love for God can be expressed only in a way that corresponds to our way of being in the world. It can function, then, only within the network of our interpersonal relationships. Our love for God and neighbour is the same love. So, our love and loving care for other human beings is not in competition with our love for God, but the concrete and practical ways in which we express our love for God. In practice, then, the two commandments to be a loving person are just one commandment.

Let me give you one striking example of this from Paul O’Reilly, a Jesuit priest, who contributes to Preacher Exchange II. When he was working in the Amazon rainforest in South America as a medical doctor, he had a young patient called Jeffrey. When Jeffrey was ten, his mother died. Three months later, his father abandoned Jeffrey and his two sisters and emigrated to a rich country. The three children were taken in by an uncle who worked as a teacher in a very poor village deep in the rainforest. One day, when Jeffrey was 12, he and his sisters did not have enough food to eat. So, Jeffrey climbed a mango tree to get some fruit.

His uncle had told him not to, but Jeffrey couldn’t stand seeing his sisters hungry. But he fell down 30 feet from the tree and broke his back. He was left paralyzed from the middle of his chest downwards. The people with him carried him on a stretcher, 20 days walk through the forest, to a little hospital in the nearest town. There he lay for a whole year. At the end of that year in hospital, he was in a bad way. He was just skin and bones and had pressure sores all over his back. He was dying and in constant pain. His uncle and sisters cared for him as best they could. But day by day he got worse and worse. So, they decided to take him home, -since they would not let him die in hospital. But unable to carry him another 20 days journey through the forest, they appealed to their local church community for help.

God touched the hearts of their next-door neighbors Henry and Colette Melville, a married couple with children of their own, to take in the whole family and care for them. Colette, in particular, looked after Jeffrey night and day for six months till he died. And when he died, she wept for him as for one of her own children.

Of all the people he has ever known, Paul says, she was the one who loved the Lord her God with all her heart, all her mind, all her strength and all her might. And more than anyone else she was the one who truly loved her neighbour as herself. What an amazing example of true love at work!

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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All Saints 1st November 2021

"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven."

This is the Feast of All Saints - the day when we celebrate all those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith and particularly those who have marked each of us with that sign of faith - those who have given us example; those who have touched our hearts; those who have inspired our souls and those who have enlightened the eyes of our minds and taught us what the Christian life really is. We are who we are because of all of them.

So, let me tell you about one person who did that for me.

When I was working as a doctor in Zimbabwe in Africa I once had the privilege - and I do not use that word lightly - it was a privilege - of looking after a woman who came to us from across the border in Mozambique. She had woken up one morning in her village in Mozambique and found that her 3-month old baby was very sick. And she knew to look at him that her baby would die unless she could get him to a hospital quickly. So she got up, she took some food & water, and she put her baby on one hip and her 18-month old son on the other hip and she started to walk to the nearest hospital, which was ours over the border in Zimbabwe. To get to us she walked continuously for 24 hours. And in that time she covered 50 miles –that is five-zero– FIFTY MILES! - over broken country - no roads – over dry scrub land with no shelter, in temperatures of more than 100 degrees in the shade. She crossed two supposedly un-fordable rivers in flood, both of them wider than the Thames, with no bridges and no ferries. (To this day I don’t know exactly how she did that.) She walked through the front lines of the brutal civil war then going on in Mozambique. She walked across the Zimbabwean border - evading the armed guards put there precisely to deter such refugees. And she walked into our hospital. And there, despite the fact that her own hemoglobin – her own blood count - was only 8, which is only slightly more than half of normal, she was able to give the pint of blood which - mercifully - helped to save the life of her baby.

Let me tell you something more about her. On arrival we used to take the names, ages, heights & weights of all of our patients: I won’t tell you her name - though it lives with me - but she was nineteen; she was 4 foot 11; and she weighed 38 kg – in old money, that’s slightly less than 6 stone. She was tiny! I have to tell you that is the most astonishing example I have ever seen of the love of a parent for her child.

In so many ways, what she did seemed to me impossible - such a small weak woman, such a long and arduous journey, such enormous dangers and so little time. I’ll never know how she did it, but I’ll never forget why she did it.

{In Ireland we have a saying for courage– it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. Maybe we should have something for ladies; it’s not the size of the woman in love, but the size of the love in the woman.}

That happened more than 25 years ago. But it is a memory that lives with me - an example for everlasting memory of what it truly means to love somebody - to be really inspired by how much you care about someone other than yourself. And I hope and pray that because of the Christian example she showed me, I may be able to bring to my life and work a small part of that same love and commitment.

And that is what I believe it means to celebrate this feast. We pray today that we may never forget the people who have given us good example in Faith.

And also that we may live in fulfillment of the example we have received.

And also that we may be examples to the World and to the next generation of what a truly Christian life can be.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who inspires in us his own Presence.

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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