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Zephaniah 3: 14-18; Psalm 12; Philippians 4: 4-7; Luke 3: 10-18

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:


It is that time of the year again when we reach out to you for help. Our weekly e-mailings now go to almost 9,000 recipients. Our webpage, "Preacher Exchange" has had 390,000 "hits" since last Advent. We have kept these Spanish and English resources free so those in poorer parishes and the developing world can have access to them. Judging from the emails I get, that is exactly what is happening. We can’t continue this service without your help – so will you?

Every day our community prays for our benefactors. And so you and your loved ones will be remembered at our daily Eucharist and prayer during these special days of Advent and Christmas.

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Thank you.

Advent begins in a very somber tone. Looking back over the readings of the past two weeks we hear sobering warnings. On the first Sunday of Advent we were cautioned that signs in the heavens will cause people to "die of fright" (Lk 21: 25-28). Last Sunday John the Baptist "proclaimed a baptism of repentance" (3: 1-6).

In our tradition, this Sunday was called "Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday." The name was derived from the opening lines of today’s Philippians reading: "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice… the Lord is near." The first reading from Zephaniah is also exuberant, as the Prophet proclaims, "Shout for joy, O daughter Zion. Sing joyfully, O Israel!"

The prophet is not a cheerleader in front of an excited crowd of victorious sports fans. Quite the contrary. Zephaniah has been castigating people for their sins (1:6; 2:10) and their lack of trust in God. The people were soon to face destruction at the hands of the Babylonians. Prophets saw such disasters as God’s punishment on their infidelity. Today the prophet announces God’s judgment on the people and – surprise! – God "will come and remove the people’s guilt." Zephaniah proclaims that even in the worst of times, God does not abandon God’s people.

Isn’t that the God we celebrate in Advent? Despite very hard times in our world, nation and church, God will not abandon us. In fact, the prophet tells us, "The Lord is in your midst." The prophet invites us to open our eyes and ears and take note how close God is. So, have you noticed God in your midst when you: find the right words to console a grieving friend; start anew after a life-altering event; experience forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or through the healing words of one you have offended; persevered in seeking the rights of another; shared in your parish’s efforts to feed the hungry; bought gifts for children at Christmas, etc.? These and many other experiences stir us to proclaim with Zechariah, "The Lord is in your midst!"

John the Baptist gives us clear directions how to prepare for the coming of Christ. His hearers wanted to know what they could do to be members of the coming kingdom of God. His advice to them was practical, within their reach. Share with people in need; feed the hungry; be fair in business practices and content with what you have. John backed up his words with the witness of his life. He lived an austere life in the desert; spoke frankly to people; did not curry favor with people of means and the religious hierarchy. He urged listeners who came to him to turn away from greed and indifference and to practice love of God and love of neighbor. The people who went to John heard what they needed to know to prepare for the coming of God’s Anointed One. Did they all respond to what he told them? Apparently many did because Luke tells us he baptized people in the Jordan.

What about us during Advent? How shall we, the baptized, respond to what John tells us? During this preparing-time what do we need to change in our way of acting and how can we unclutter our lives? Who are the people we need to help because they are in physical, or emotional distress?

Maybe John was a disappointment to those who went out of their way to listen to him. Were they looking for a special spiritual practice to follow? Did they expect John to tell them to adopt his rigorous way of life – praying and fasting in the desert? Or, maybe they were content with their lives, and expected John to pat them on the back, "You’re doing a good job, keep up the good work and you will be ready for the Messiah when he comes." Well, that wasn’t what he told those who came searching: what he said was, "Change your ways!"

John was asking for ethical reform and repentance. He didn’t preach doctrine, or merely talk about Christ’s coming. He asked people to do things immediately and not to procrastinate, because God was about to perform a great sign for them and they needed to be alert and ready. After their long waiting the Messiah was finally coming. People who went out to hear John and who accepted his baptism, were filled with the desire to heed his words and change their lives. God was drawing close. They set a good example for us, who also yearn for the Savior to come and deliver us from what keeps us bound to our past and the ways of this world.

Despite the enthusiastic crowds who had come out to hear him, John knows he is not the One they were expecting. When that One does come, John testifies, he will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. The Spirit, the wind, will enable people to separate the chaff, the useless in their lives, from the wheat that is lasting and nourishing.

Jesus is the source of the Holy Spirit who connects us to God and one another; our life energy. The Spirit enables us to live the simple lives of integrity and commitment that John called his hearers to follow. The Spirit inspires, directs and enables us to follow and persevere in the way Jesus has shown us. His life is not reserved to just a few compatible and determined followers. Instead, because of the Spirit, all are invited and moved to respond to the One we are preparing this1 Advent to receive.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:


"Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!"

Isaiah 12:6

Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel." How many of us, in the activities of our everyday lives, spend time thinking about God’s nearness? I am reminded of a short tale in Anthony de Mello’s book, One Minute Wisdom (Doubleday, 1988, 44).

The Master became a legend in his lifetime. It was said that God once sought his advice: "I want to play a game of hide-and-seek with humankind. I’ve asked my Angels what the best place is to hide in. Some say the depth of the ocean. Others the top of the highest mountain. Others still the far side of the moon or a distant star. What do you suggest?

Said the Master, "Hide in the human heart. That’s the last place they will think of!"

This is Good News! God is as near as our hearts. What an awesome realization. As Pope Francis states, in a homily on 6/7/13, "God who draws near out of love walks with His people, and this walk comes to an unimaginable point. We could never have imagined that the same Lord would become one of us and walk with us, be present with us, present in His Church, present in the Eucharist, present in His Word, present in the poor, He is present, walking with us. And this is closeness: the shepherd close to his flock, close to his sheep, whom he knows, one by one."

At the same time, this is also a scary thought. If God is so near, "hiding" in my heart, then God knows the good and the bad of me. Yes, but we have Jesus to show us how to use our hearts to emulate the actions of his heart. Pope Francis continues that St. Ignatius points out two criteria on love that Jesus models: "The first: love is expressed more clearly in actions than in words. The second: there is greater love in giving than in receiving. . These two criteria are like the pillars of true love: deeds, and the gift of self."

As we open our hearts to the Lord’s presence among us, the fruit of conversion is shown through our lives of joyful, loving service. Let us rejoice in anticipation, preparation, proclamation, and action as we await that day when God’s justice, God’s dwelling of love, is fully manifest.

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC


Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

The crowds asked John the Baptist, "What should we do?"

He said to them in reply, "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none.

And whoever has food should do likewise."


John the Baptist's hearers want to know what they should do to prepare for the coming of Christ. John gives them clear and practical advice, within their reach. Share with people in need; feed the hungry; be fair in business practices and content with what you have.

So we ask ourselves:

  • What changes must I make in my daily routine to be more attentive to Jesus’ coming?
  • What must I stop dong; what must I start doing?


"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."

---Pope Francis

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Mario Phillips #0604251 (On death row since 10/17/2007)
  • James Little #0846840 (11/21/2008)
  • Michael Sherrill #0366770 (2/23/2009)

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:

Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:


"First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory 3150 Vince Hagan Drive Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation:


1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

  • Individual CDs for each Liturgical Year, A, B or C
  • One combined CD for "Liturgical Years A, B and C."

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

2. "Homilías Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at

3. Our webpage: - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.

Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.


St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736


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