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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

Feast of the Holy Family -C- December 30, 2018

1 Samuel 1: 20-22, 24-28; Psalm 84; Colossians 3: 12-21; Luke 2: 41-52

By: Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

THANK YOU

I appreciate your response to our end-of-the-year appeal for support. Your donations pay for the over 9,000 weekly emails we send to subscribers of "First Impressions." You also help maintain our "Preacher Exchange" webpage, which last year had over 380,000 "hits." Many preachers and lay people write that they use the reflections for preaching, scripture groups and personal prayer. Thank you for making this resource available to so many.

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Thank you.



Today’s gospel has a familiar ring. We have heard stories of famous people who showed precocious signs of future greatness while they were still young. Jesus, while still only twelve, declares his primary allegiance. He is to be in God’s house, God’s work will be his life’s work.

Jesus belonged to an observant Jewish family and so his parents take their firstborn to the Temple in Jerusalem. They are teaching him his Jewish heritage. St. Luke is brief about something that that must have seemed like an eternity for Mary and Joseph – for "three days" they search for their missing child. Read into that succinct narrative the anguish Jesus’ parents must have felt searching for their son. What parent has not had a hint of that feeling when turning around in a mall they notice their child has wandered? How much greater the anguish experienced by those parents whose child has run away, or made decisions they were much too young to make, with consequences that may last the rest of their lives?

Parenting has profound joys and more than its share of worry, fright and anguish. I can only imagine the relief Mary and Joseph felt when, at last, they found Jesus. Mary’s statement to him, about his parents having "great anxiety," gives us a clue what the parents were feeling. The original Greek for "anxiety" suggests severe mental distress, sadness and intense anguish. For example, in Luke, it is the same expression used by the rich man who, having ignored the beggar Lazarus at his gate, winds up in hell begging Abraham for a drop of water to cool his tongue. He says, ". . . For I am in agony in these flames" (Lk. 16: 24). In Greek, "agony" is the same word Luke uses when Mary tells Jesus, "Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety". Mary’s tone sounds like what one would expect from a parent who has just gone through "great anxiety" – she is correcting Jesus. But his response isn’t the humble request for forgiveness we might have expected. Instead, he seems to reproach them for their worry. Jesus, as Luke depicts him here, is a young man finding his calling for life. He will be about God’s business and his choice of vocation will take him outside the influence of family and village.

Jesus’s response doesn’t clarify the matter for Mary and Joseph; they "did not understand what he said to them." The call he has heard, "to be in my Father’s house", and to dedicate himself to God’s ways, is exactly right for him – and for us. But we can’t ignore the mystery. That call will require him to be faithful to it all the way to his death. Others in religious and political power will take such exception to the way he lived out his vocation that they will seek his death This is just the beginning. Jesus will always cause continued questions and anguish for his parents, most especially for Mary, when she stands and wonders at the foot of his cross.

Let’s look at the context of the passage, this may help in our interpretation. Luke begins his gospel with a two-part prologue (1:5-2:52). The first part (1:5-2:40) appears in the Lectionary readings during Advent, the Christmas celebrations and on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. This part of the prologue is about Jesus’ origins. The second part (2:41-2:52) is much shorter and relates to his destiny. He will return to God. Hence, today’s selection begins to show this destiny, when Jesus says his place is in his "Father’s house." Through this liturgical year Luke’s gospel will follow a similar division. The first part will be about the origins of the Christian community in Galilee (4:14-9:50). In the second we will travel with Jesus to Jerusalem and discover our destiny with him.

There is a painting of the Holy Family I once saw, I think it was done by George de la Tour. It shows Joseph in his carpentry shop where he is teaching carpentry to the young Jesus. They are working on two pieces of wood that form a cross beam. De la Tour seems to be suggesting the early appearance of the cross in the gospel. The artist depicts the same thing Luke is showing us. Earlier in the Gospel Luke tells us that the Spirit of God "over shadows" Mary enabling her to become the mother of the savior. This young, unlettered peasant girl discerns the voice of God and responds in the affirmative to God’s will, becoming a partner with God in the work of redemption. Her "yes" began the story of God’s taking flesh – but it also turned her world upside down. Her "yes" to God’s ways required personal sacrifice.

We begin to see today some of the consequences in Mary’s life as a result of her consent to God. She must undergo the suffering of a parent whose son’s ways cause her pain and questions. Besides the Spirit’s presence in her life, the cross is also showing signs of its presence. We know that through Luke’s gospel the cross "overshadows" Jesus’ life – but we begin to see that it overshadows the family’s life as well. It has already begun to show itself as Jesus chooses a way of life that will bring suffering before it brings new life. Luke tells us that the parents "did not understand what he said to them." They, like Jesus’ disciples – and we as well – will have to walk by the light of faith that enables them to trust God, even when an answer to problems and pain is not immediately forthcoming.

Growing up I heard too many sermons that waxed eloquently on "the Holy Family." Preachers imagined an idyllic family which made me feel my loving family fell short of the ideal painted by the preachers. Painted images of the Holy Family in church and home only helped reinforce the unreality and distance between them and the families I knew. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in their immaculate, but simple home, seemed so peaceful, clean and starched. I used to think Jesus had it easy, he had no brothers or sisters to argue with over the biggest piece of birthday cake. Mary and Joseph looked like they never disagreed, worried about finances, or had fears for the safety of their child growing up in an all-too-cruel world. I think we need to bring our human experience to today’s gospel and not sanitize it to fit our preconceptions or pious presumptions about the kind of life the Holy Family lived. Having an unreal idealized view of Jesus’ family only further separates us from his life and the lives of other saints.

The closing line tells us that when they returned to Nazareth, Jesus was obedient to his parents and that he "advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and humans." This growth didn’t happen in his sleep. Jesus is part of a human family, devout Jews, who passed on their faith and their family customs to their son. As his parents, they taught and nourished Jesus into manhood. God’s taking flesh among us means Jesus grew and matured the way we do -- under the influence of his parents, extended family, friends and neighbors. Jesus was not raised in the Temple, in a rarefied atmosphere, far from the influence of his family. Instead, he was very much immersed among people who cherished, nourished and stood by him, even though they didn’t fully understand him.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/123018.cfm

QUOTABLE

Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, his place is with those others for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of person, who are tortured, bombed and exterminated. With those for whom there is no room Christ is present in the world.

—Thomas Merton

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!

Psalm 84: 2

In this psalm, Israelites celebrate the pilgrimage feasts in Jerusalem annually, eager to enjoy the divine presence. As we contemplate what an effort it must have took for the Holy Family to journey each year to the "City of Peace," let us think about how willing we are to stop what we are doing and be with the Lord as part of his holy family. Then, take it a step further and think about the rest of God’s family that we may not know--the poor, the disadvantaged, the imprisoned, the elderly. . . are we willing to journey with them?

Jonathan T. M. Reckford, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, writes of poverty in their December newsletter:

"Many people view poverty as a single failing of the individual or of society -- one that with enough tenacity anyone should be able to overcome.

What I’ve found, however, is that poverty isn’t a single closed door. It’s a series of them.

Whether these doors are open to us can depend largely on factors outside of our control: the neighborhood we were born in, the school district we were raised in, the genetic health issues we were passed down.

Each of these doors can trigger a cascade of closing doors behind it.

The zip code, family and skin you were born in either lead you to -- or close you off from -- access to higher education, approval for loans, potential jobs, higher wages, stable housing.

Eventually, as the doors close, poverty becomes a lack of freedom and of choice."

We know today that the Lord’s dwelling is the entire world, indeed the universe, and in the heart and soul of God’s family.

This coming year, let our pilgrimage include "the other" and let us walk together toward God’s world--where there is no more poverty, where everyone has a decent place to live, where food is plentiful, where no one goes without a cloak for warmth, where health is a given, where love, wisdom and justice prevail, where our earth no longer groans in abuse, where everyone has the opportunity to become who they were meant to be, …a world where God’s presence is made manifest.

It begins with a single step joined with others.

Then, truly, we will arrive at the City of Peace.

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

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 I Samuel reading:

Once Samuel was weaned, Hannah brought him with her...
and presented him at the temple of the Lord in Shiloh.

From today’s Gospel reading:

Jesus went down with them and came to Nazareth....

And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and humans.

Reflection:

Both Jesus and Samuel, despite their awareness of God’s call when they were youths, spend a period of incubation time – Samuel in the Temple and Jesus with his family.

The readings suggest two principal places for growth: in family and in religious tradition.

Both are places one can learn, "advance in wisdom" and be formed for future service of God.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Who were the most formative people in our faith formation?
  • How can we express our gratitude for their influence on our lives? By a personal word to them?
  • By cherishing their memory at Eucharist today?

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"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 Mc Neil #0788387 (On death row since 5/29/13)
  • Juan C. Rodriguez #1412408 (3/21/14)
  • Jonathan Richardson #1019362 m(4/4/2014)

----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: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:  http://www.pfadp.org/

DONATIONS

"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 jboll@opsouth.org

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, TX 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation: http://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

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: www.PreacherExchange.com 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 Jboll@opsouth.org.

3. Our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.org - 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

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626


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