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3rd SUNDAY OF ADVENT (A) DEC. 11, 2016

Isaiah 35: 1-6a, 10; Psalm 146; James 5: 7-10; Matthew 11: 2-11

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:


In our liturgical celebrations and daily prayer we frequently pray for vocations.

I live in a novitiate community of the Southern Dominican Province, USA.

I can say that I have seen visible evidence that our prayers have been heard, for we have three vibrant novices spending their first year in the Order with us.

Please join us in praying for them as they discern their vocations.

"First Impressions" is a free weekly preaching ministry. If you can help support this ministry, as well as help with the training of our novices, we would appreciate it. In our chapel we have a list of people we pray for daily. If you would like us to add a name, please let us know. And pray for us, as we do for you.

Send tax deductible checks to:

"First Impressions"

Payable to: Dominican Friars

3150 Vince Hagan Dr.

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Or: For an online donation go to:

Thank you.






It’s hard when you’re in prison to know what’s going on outside the locked gates and beyond the walls. A chaplain friend of mine was visiting an inmate at San Quentin prison at his cell. The inmate had been brought to the prison in the middle of the night and had not seen any of the scenery around the prison. So he asked my friend, "What’s on the other side of the walls?"

Using a felt tip pen and a scrap of paper, the chaplain drew a rough map of the San Francisco Bay Area and with dots he indicated: "Here’s San Francisco – here’s Oakland – this is where Angel Island and Alcatraz islands are – here’s the Golden gate Bridge – and this is the Richmond San Rafael bridge that you drove over at night coming from Folsom Prison." The inmate thanked the chaplain for the information.

But, later as the chaplain drove back to the East Bay, and saw the setting sun through the Golden Gate, and the low hanging pink clouds, colored by the fading sun, he thought to himself, "The inmate had some information about the Bay, but he had no idea what the real thing was like, this beautiful Bay – the brilliant setting sun."

There’s nothing like first-hand experience.

John the Baptist was locked up in prison. His blunt preaching had made him powerful enemies, especially Herod, whom he had criticized for committing adultery. As Jesus said about John: he was no swaying reed in the wind; he wasn’t royalty dressed up, perched on a throne. He was the messenger who was preparing Jesus’ way; the way of the Messiah, with fiery rhetoric and hot warnings to repent.

John was confident and bold, but then got himself locked up and now his hopes are locked up as well – closing down on him. From what he has been hearing about Jesus, he’s beginning to have doubts – not about the landscape outside his prison walls, but about the landscape of this person Jesus. Jesus isn’t fiery, as John expected. Nor is Jesus spewing warnings about God’s wrath.

John was a great preacher and prophet, but his expectation of the coming Messiah didn’t fit Jesus. So, it’s as if John has a scrap of paper and, from his prison cell, says to his visiting disciples, "Here, write this down and ask Jesus, ‘Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?"’

John wanted someone who would turn the religious and political order upside down; like a tidal wave, sweeping away the irreligious and the corrupt. He wanted someone to come riding in as head of a triumphant parade and proclaim God’s mighty kingdom.

Instead, the news funneling back to the confused, jailed and fiery prophet of God, was that Jesus was eating with the tax collectors who worked to collect taxes to support Rome. Jesus wasn’t castigating and condemning sinners instead, he was sitting down to meals with them and making God’s forgiveness easily available to them – in John’s eyes, too easily available. Jesus was even encouraging people to forgive their enemies – including their Roman enemies! Things hadn’t worked out the way John expected and now he’s locked up in prison facing death.

When John’s disciples arrive with their questions in hand, Jesus doesn’t give direct answers. But he tells John’s disciples to go back and give their own testimony about what they see and hear around them: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have good news preached to them.

Bottom line: Jesus was helping those in most need, those who didn’t have anyone else to help them, or anyone who could help them. Turns out, Jesus didn’t come, as John had hoped, to destroy the wicked, but to restore them; to give them the possibility of a second chance. Jesus was inviting the ignorant, the sinners and the foolish back to God’s highway – the right way.

Even today, some people still take offense at the kind of Messiah Jesus turned out to be. Some fundamentalists, perhaps even some of us, want him to close the door on anyone different from themselves. They consider themselves respectable and they have a long list of those who shouldn’t make it in: people of other religions, last-minute converts, gays, or even people like that prisoner at San Quentin.

This is the season of expectation – Advent. It is a when children and adults too, make lists of what they would like to receive for Christmas. But Advent means more than that to us. We anticipate and hope for renewal and deepening of our faith during this reflective time – we are looking for the coming of Jesus to set us free:

-to give us sight where we are blind

-to open our ears to what we have been ignoring

-to cleanse us of the past that weighs us down

-to make us good news to the poor who need us.

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


May God the Preacher bless you, entrusting you with the Word that gives life and hope to a thirsty world. May you life bear witness to this Word in you and may your proclamation of this Word echo in the hearts of all those with whom you live and work. May even the stranger know the passion of your commitment.

May God the Preacher be with you.

-----Maxine Shonk, OP, "Blessing Upon Blessing," (Spirituality Newwork, Inc, Columbus, Ohio, 2010).


They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song.
Isaiah 35: 2

In his 2014 Gaudete Sunday homily, Pope Francis said that Gaudete Sunday is known as the "Sunday of joy," and that instead of fretting about "all they still haven't" done to prepare for Christmas, people should "think of all the good things life has given you." The Pope then said that Jesus wishes us to bring this joy, these "glad tidings," to the poor: those with spiritual and material needs, the many people who are anxious about family problems (12/14/14). Having passed the midpoint of Advent, the Church lightens the mood a little, and the priest may wear rose vestments. The change in color provides us with symbolic encouragement to continue our spiritual preparation for Christmas in a joyful way.

Joy, humor and laughter are underappreciated values in the spiritual life. Most of the saints were joyful disproving the terrible stereotype of the grumpy, dour-faced saint. Consider Pope Saint John XXIII, whose most famous joke came when a journalist innocently asked him, "Your Holiness, how many people work in the Vatican?" St. John replied, "About half of them." Then, there is the story of St. Teresa of Avila who, in traveling to one of her convents, was knocked off her donkey into the mud, injuring her leg. "Lord, you could not have picked a worse time for this to happen. Why would you let this happen?" And the response in prayer that she heard was, "That is how I treat my friends." To which she replied, "And that is why you have so few of them!"

Why do I bring up humor and joy in a justice column? Often, in our ministries, we are witnessing or encountering sad stories of how our disadvantaged fellow human beings struggle in their daily lives and it can get to be overwhelming. Yet, in talking with them, we sometimes laugh together about some common human foible and it lightens the stress, even if just momentarily. We find our common humanity in humor and we all end up more hopeful.

Pope Francis calls the God of Christmas, "a God who "shuffles the cards" — he likes doing so! As Mary sings in the Magnificat, it is the Lord who puts down the mighty from their thrones and exalts those of low degree, who fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty" (12/20/15). It is hard not to see God’s mischievous joy in upending what we humans’ value. When we stop to examine our own lives, we see the many good things that have been given. How wonderful to share from our abundance, bloom like a flower, and rejoice with joyful song.

----Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Coordinator of Social Justice Ministries Sacred Heart Cathedral--Raleigh, N.C.


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:

Jesus said,
"Go and tell John what you hear and see:
The blind regain their sight, the lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear and the dead are raised,
And the poor have the good news proclaimed to them."


Advent is a season when children and adults anticipate Christmas gifts. But Advent means more than that to us. We anticipate and hope for renewal and deepening of our faith during this reflective season. Like the people of Jesus’ time, we are looking for the coming of Jesus to set us free.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Do we anticipate meeting Jesus in our daily lives?
  • In what area of our lives do we need him to set us free?


"The use of the death penalty cannot really be mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick

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:

  • Michael Patrick Ryan #1033115 (On death row since 5/23/10)
  • Andrew D. Ramseur #0972488 (6/8/10)
  • Stephen Buckner #1062462 (11/8/2010)

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

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


"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.

(These CDs have been updated twice in the last five years.)

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.

St. Albert Priory

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736



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