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Contents: Volume 2 - 20th Sunday - C
August 14, 2022

 

  The

20th

SUNDAY

 (C)

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Dennis Keller with Charlie

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

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

 

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1.

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Sun. 20 C 2022

If we were asked to describe our present society, it would be difficult not to include some words about division. Is this what Jesus intended when he spoke in the Gospel and identified his purpose as not coming to establish peace but rather division? I don't think so, but then, what did Jesus envision?

I think Jesus came to turn his society upside down, to right injustices, and to encourage people to think intentionally about choices rather than rubber stamp what was expected or commonplace at the time. That message ultimately divided his society into Jesus's disciples and non-followers. Jesus's message continues to divide our society today, perhaps not in such stark terms, but rather more inclusively but still separating all those who seek the common good from those who are self-serving.

It is true that many households are divided in our times, just as many factions divide our countries. What divides us, if we look at the household list, usually includes a disagreement about "right" or "wrong". The same is true in our countries unless there is such a strong desire for a common good that makes bipartisanship an absolute must.

The solution I see to this dilemma of never-ending strife is to examine intentionality. Excellent strategies in interpersonal dynamics usually include honest dialogue and fostering good will in the relationship. While it is inevitable that there will be disagreements, I am hopeful that the term "division" will be softened somewhat, especially among us who read/hear this Gospel message this week. It is destructive, personally and globally, to be in continual discontent, discord, and disagreement. No one flourishes and neither does society!

As we look at Jesus's viewpoint on division, perhaps we could see it as an intermediary step in seeking the inner peace that only God can give. Living intentionally means challenging a bunch of habits and risking hearing some not-so-nice comments at best. Finding non-violent ways to enter into and maintain dialogue with those with whom we disagree can be life-changing. It is a way to incorporate Jesus's fire without being fiery. It is a way to bring more people to the Kingdom, here and now.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Twentieth Sunday of Ordered Time August 14 2022

Jeremiah 38:4-6 & 8-10; Responsorial Psalm 40; Letter to Hebrews 12:1-4; Gospel Acclamation John 10:27; Luke 12:49-53

In the readings for the past few Sundays, Jesus has been heading toward Jerusalem. He clearly sees that Jerusalem will be the final test of his commitment to his mission. There he will be confronted with the failure and sin of religious leadership which has surrendered to the way of the world. And in so doing that leadership lost its energy to lift up the people, especially those on the margins of society. There Jesus will be judged by the powers and wealth achieved by the violence of the Roman Legion. Religious authorities see him as a threat to their social standing, their comfortable life, and the best of everything the world had to offer. The secular power of Rome exercised in cruelty, enforced by violence, think he is a Zealot, plotting to overthrow Roman rule. As we once again relive Jesus’ entry into the city of Peace, riding on a donkey, we’ll hear him again proclaimed as king, the rightful heir to the throne of David. He comes in peace. But that peace threatens both religious complacency and entitlements and the ruling power enforced by thoughtless violence.

The first reading is from Jeremiah who was part of the religious leadership by his birth. As a young man he is called to prophesy. He is very clear in his work that he hates being prophet. He claims that God has misled him, duped him into service as prophet. A prophet always runs counter to the existing thinking, leadership’s exercise of power. That’s the story in this first reading. Judah is threatened by not one, but two powers, Egyptian and the Assyrian. The Babylonians have yet to lay claim to Judah as they soon will. At the time of this Jeremiah story, the military has a concern that Jeremiah’s prophesying is raising doubts in the citizens about current military policy as a solution to threats from Egypt and Assyria. Jeremiah is concerned that military strength won’t save the day. He is even more insistent that treaties will only bring idolatry to the Temple as it certainly did. Jeremiah’s prophecies are unsettling to military and political leadership. The military wants him silenced. They get permission from the weak and frightened king to eliminate him – not quickly by cutting his throat. He is lowered into a dry cistern and left there to starve to death. A friend appeals to the king and he is saved. At the end of Jeremiah’s career as prophet he is dragged into exile to the land, he most despised. He died in Egypt. Prophets are not well received in any time, in any place. And oh, lest we forget: at our baptisms we were given the role of priest, PROPHET, and king/queen. Our baptism is not just for our salvation. It is tied to the salvation of all as we pray in the Our Father – "Thy will be done." For God’s will is that all receive salvation.

The second reading is a metaphor presenting human life as a race. In this race there is a huge crowd of spectators. That crowd is presented us as a huge cloud. But these are more than spectators, rooting for a favorite competitor. This crowd is a crowd of witnesses. They’ve got a stake in this contest. They’ve run this race, this course and have finished. Their presence in that cloud is proof they experienced the rigors and challenges of that journey. They endured, they struggled, they fell and rose up again. They completed their chosen course. What is different about this race from competitive sporting events is that each participant makes their own course. This race is the journey of life. Each life has its own path. Each person makes their own way – sometimes a freeway, sometimes a paved road, sometimes piked, sometimes dirt, and sometimes only a rabbit track. What unites all these various and diverse journeys is the presence of Jesus. The writer of this second reading makes this the focus of this chapter in the letter to the Hebrews. The runners in every step of the way, in every obstacle overcome, in every encounter along their way – in every step are to keep their eyes on Jesus. For this Jesus, this Son of God and Son of Man can perfect us in our faith. That faith provides us the vision to stay on the way to completion. The cloud of witnesses is there as proof of the truth of the faith Jesus perfects in us. These are not judges but coaches, trainers, and cheerleaders for us.

Anyone who competed in a sporting event knows that the less weight carried, the more energy is available to compete. In this race, the journey in life, the more we are weighed down by addictions, by failed relationships, by excesses of any kind, the more difficult is the struggle to complete the course. If we think of moral choices according to this metaphor, there is a new understanding of the damage by sin. Often, we think of sin as something that will keep us from eternal life. In this metaphor, sin becomes something that damages our present life, making it more difficult to run our race, to live life. That race, that journey of our choosing, with our eyes on Jesus, is filled with an expansive growth gained by experiences, each experience holding possible growth for our stature and character. Or not! If we are slowed, hampered by sin, our distance, experiences, and growth in stature and character are vastly diminisher. Those who may be fearful of the course, choosing not to venture forth in living, limit their personal exposures to God’s creation and fellow runners. In our journey those who have gone on before us – friends, relatives, acquaintances, competitors - will be cheering for us. The message is that the grand gift that is life is for growth, for experiences, for developing relationships that enrich us on our journey. While our efforts may seem individual – a me-and-Jesus event – in fact, we run with others and are affected by their company and they by ours. In addition, those who have gone before us at the completion of their race, these are in the cloud of witnesses who support us with the movements of their hearts and minds. These communal thoughts are based on faith belief in the Mystical Body of the Christ. Catholics believe there is a church militant make up of us on journeys and of those who have completed their journeys, the church triumphant. Reception of the Eucharist unites us to the entire church militant AND to the church triumphant. How wonderful is that?

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus appears to be having a bad day. His usual and customary approach is preaching a community of love. Every miracle supports that message by returning the possessed, the infirm, the mentally challenged to full participation in community. That is the message of love, of a compassionate and merciful God who deals with each with loving kindness. His entire public ministry is a ministry of creating unity, togetherness, family. So, what’s the reason for his caustic statement in this gospel? "I have come to establish division." Much of Hebrew Scriptural prophecy about the Messiah taught that this hoped for leader/savior would establish an epoch of wonderful, prosperous peace. What Jesus says runs contrary to such peace and prosperity. The hoped-for Messiah would set things right according to standard of the Law of Moses. The right relationships established by this Son of Man would establish a wonderful peace and resulting prosperity. In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus throws those fantasies into a consuming fire.

Ah, Fire! There are varied aspects and understandings of the nature of fire. Fire is a destroyer when it consumes. Fire in a refinery is a purifier. Fire’s effects can be a judge of what’s whole when it burns away unwelcome elements. Fire is how we express the commitment and energy in a person’s belly when that person rises up beyond their limitations to achieve an impossible dream. Then there’s the fire that expressed what happened to the disciples on Pentecost – appearing as tongues of fire over the heads of each. Fire is used as well to indicate a divine revelation such the experience of Moses at the burning bush.

Jesus puts fire in the context of baptism. Wouldn’t the water of baptism put out the fire of which he speaks? Jesus uses the term baptism to indicate a total immersion of his person. His commitment to the divine mission of presence will totally submerge him. He is of course speaking of his passion and death as told us in the scenes of Gethsemane and Calvary. That baptism will be the trial/rejection of contemporary religious leadership and condemnation by civil authority. The test, the race Jesus is running is his commitment to his mission. He cannot abandon that mission for it is the plan of God that salvation come to all who seek it. He cannot use miracles – as suggested in his temptation at the beginning of his ministry – to demand as an authoritarian would, how human life is meant to be. His modeling about to be revealed in Jerusalem proves that God is committed to salvation of humanity, not by law but through the mercy and compassion of God for the runners in the race.

Those who chose – encouraged by the gift of faith – to make their journey with their eyes on the life, the words, the healing of Jesus will live lives in conflict with those who journey in the way of the world. That’s the lesson from Jeremiah this Sunday. There will be conflict between those who run the race with their eyes on Jesus and those whose eyes are on the way of the world. This will divide families, disrupt neighborhoods, create conflict in civil and political endeavors. Even economic life will see this conflict brought on by the living choices of those who run with their eyes on Jesus.

Just as Jesus would not sway from his mission, so also those who keep their eyes on Jesus as they run their race in the sight of the cloud of witnesses will not be swayed. That cloud of witnesses teaches us we are not alone on the journey, the race of our growth as persons. We are cheered on – sometimes very quietly – by that vast cloud of witnesses. It is for us to discern that our eyes are on Jesus and not on some vocal charlatan.

Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com  with Charlie editing

 

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3.

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TELLING AND LIVING THE TRUTH: 20TH SUNDAY C

Jeremiah 38:1-2ab, 4-6, 8-10; Hebrews 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53

A few years ago, a Franciscan priest named Fabian Thom was shot dead in his bed, at his home in Port Moresby. This is what he got for his forty years of befriending, helping, healing, teaching, guiding, and supporting, hundreds and thousands of people as a missionary in Papua New Guinea. His family says his murder makes no sense, because he made no personal enemies, and was always open, honest, truthful, good, kind and gentle, with every person he met. Unfortunately, payback is still strong in parts of PNG culture, but it remains a great puzzle why Fr Fabian became a target for his murderers.

Fr Fabian joins a long line of prophets, spokespersons for God, who have been martyred for being constant and faithful in their work for God. They remind us all that there's a price to be paid in our dealings with others, for always telling and living the truth. The prophet, Jeremiah, whom we meet today in our First Reading, is dumped down a muddy well because he kept saying what God wanted him to say, but which people did not want to hear. Jesus, too, as our Second Reading has reminded us, stuck to his task of telling the truth without fear or favour, and kept on living the truth he told. For that he became a sign that was contradicted, and, in the end, was murdered on the cross.

At the birth of Jesus, the angels sang: 'Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to the people God loves' (Lk 2:14). He was announced as the Prince of Peace. But that never meant he would be weak, soft, and sentimental. A lover of children, people without friends, and poor persons? Yes! A speaker of pious, gentle but meaningless platitudes? No way! Jesus came to bring real peace to the world, but real peace always comes at a price, the price of misunderstanding, conflict and division, even within one's own family. Think of the conflict and division threatening democracy in the USA, over the ‘big lie’ that Donald Trump won the presidency of the USA in 2020, the lie that even led to the storming of the Capitol, the seat of government, on January 6th, 2021.

A very perceptive writer called F. Scott Peck has coined the phrase 'people of the lie'. In South Africa, the national lie was the system of apartheid, the unequal system of separate development and segregation of white people on the one hand, from coloured and black people on the other. Here in Australia, until the High Court Mabo case a few years ago, we have lived with the lie, that when settlers first arrived from Britain, Australia was terra nullius, an uninhabited land. The truth is, that our aboriginal brothers and sisters have occupied the land for more than 60 thousand years, and therefore continue to experience Australia Day (January 26th) as Invasion Day. Being reconciled must include admitting the truth, and in a spirit of what has been called 'tough love', putting right the wrongs of stealing their land and even massacring many aborigines. This is Australia’s ‘original sin’.

Truth is hard on families, communities, and nations. When a family stop pretending that Mum's drinking is not a problem, or that Dad's gambling doesn't hurt anyone else, or that number one son's insulting and abusive language is just letting off steam, expect a blow-up when the 'not happy, Jan' message is finally delivered. When a nation admits that its economy is based on the destruction of the environment or the oppression of certain groups, few people will feel comfortable about that. Telling the truth typically leads to denial, and denial to much conflict and division, before a process of reconciliation and peace can begin.

So, we might ask, who is the one in our family, in our parish, in our community, in our nation, who keeps on risking unpopularity and even violence, by telling it like it is? Who among us is doing a Jeremiah or a Jesus, by always 'speaking the truth in love' (Ephesians 4:15)? Who among us is fearless enough to say as needed, ‘That’s not right!' Maybe it's you, maybe every one of you. I hope so.

Consider going into action this week in this way: - Spend one whole day as a teller of truth. Don't be silent when others are loose or evasive with the truth. Tell no white lies. Don't cover up for your best friend or anyone else. Get real with people. Find out what happens when you confront the truth, speak the truth and live the truth. Be ready to be a whistle-blower wherever it’s needed.

Without any fear or favor, without any deceit or hypocrisy, without worrying about being called a 'dobber', without any compromise at all! Be as fired-up about 'telling the truth in love’ as Jesus was when he said: 'I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already!' (Luke 12:49). And saying to God all along, that little prayer we say over and over today with the psalmist, 'Lord, come to my aid!’

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

 

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Feast of the Assumption

"Blessed is she who believed that the promises made to her would be fulfilled."

When I was about 13 or 14 – just a few years ago - I sometimes walked to school with a boy in my class called Michael. And to tell you the God’s Honest Truth, I never really liked doing that. Because when I did, Michael always took me out of my way to walk through the graveyard. And then he would always have to stop at a particular place and say a ‘Hail Mary’. And it was always the same place. When we asked him, he wouldn’t talk about it. He wouldn’t even explain why it always had to be that particular place or why it always had to be a ‘Hail Mary’. So we all thought that this must be some superstition or "ghost-story" he had. And we teased him about it unmercifully. And we teased him about it unmercifully. I’m a bit ashamed of that now.

Eventually, when we were in the Sixth Form, he told me. He said that when he was ten, just before his mother had died before from cancer, she had asked him to say one ‘Hail Mary’ for her every day. And he had done that faithfully. And, whenever he could, he always went and said it over her grave.

I asked him why she had asked him to do this. And he said he didn’t really know. He supposed that she had wanted someone to pray for her after she had gone, but he wasn’t really sure. That was what she had asked of him and, because he was her son and he loved her, that was what he did. It was her last request of him and that was good enough for him.

I think it is that same spirit of Remembrance that brings us here – today and every Sunday – to celebrate Our Lord’s Eucharist. We do not really know why He said: "Do this in memory of me." He could have asked us to do many different things in memory of him. But He did not: He asked us to do this. He asked us to meet and eat and drink together His Body and His Blood in remembrance of Him and be united with Him and one another as His People in this World.

And, because we love him, we do what he asked us to do. We do this in memory of Him. It was his last request to us and that’s good enough for us.

But, let’s just go back to Michael for a moment. When he was 24, Michael himself developed a cancer. Naturally, he was very frightened. He had to have several painful operations and chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which made him very ill. But, most of all, he was afraid to die. It was then that he found that, when he prayed that Hail Mary every day, his mother seemed very close to him. She had travelled this way before him. And he felt strengthened by that. It became the most important thing he ever did – so much so that it gradually lengthened into a full rosary every day.

In the end, contrary to his own expectations and those of his doctors, he recovered completely and was cured. And many years later he is still completely well. But now, if you ask him, he will tell you that he thinks his mother asked him to say that prayer for her every day, not for her sake, but for his own. Because she knew that one day he would need a mother. And she wanted to be there and close for him when that day came. He doesn’t know that for sure, but it is what he likes to think.

And - just maybe - Christ’s request to us is a little the same. Maybe he asks it of us not for his sake, but for our own. One day, we may need the strength which comes from the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation and from the People of God gathered together in Union with Him. And He wants to be there for us on that day. That is why he came in the first place. That is why he says: "I am the living bread which has come down from Heaven. Anyone who eats of this bread will live forever."

Like Michael I cannot be absolutely sure that is true, but it’s what I like to think.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in a God who keeps His promises.

Paul O'Reilly SJ <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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