AN END OF THE YEAR
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
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.
Send tax deductible checks to:
Payable To: Dominican Friars
Vince Hagan Dr.
Irving, Texas 75062-4736
Or: For an online donation go to:
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
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
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
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.
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy
One of Israel!"
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
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.
Director of Social
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:
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.
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
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?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH
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."
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
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
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.
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Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage
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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
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
you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the
Great Priory of Texas
Vince Hagan Drive
First Impressions Archive
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