"First Impressions"


Please support the mission of

the Dominican Friars.

"First Impressions"
1st Impressions CD's
Stories Seldom Heard
Faith Book
Volume II
Come and See!
Homilías Dominicales
Palabras para Domingo
Homilias Breves
Daily Reflections
Daily Homilette
Daily Preaching
Daily Bread
Face to Face
Book Reviews
Justice Preaching
Preaching Essay
Dominican Preaching
The Author


30th SUNDAY -C- October 23, 2016

Sirach 35: 12-14, 16-18; Psalm 34; 2 Timothy 4: 6-8. 16-18; Luke 18: 9-14

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Click for a Printer-Frindly version in a new window.
Printer Friendly

Dear Preachers:



Sunday in



So, what’s wrong with the Pharisee’s prayer? He’s a good man who does more than religious obligation requires. He observes the evils of the world around him and gives thanks to God that he is not part of it, like "the rest of humanity, greedy dishonest, adulterous…." He is a very good man. What’s more he thanks God for his good behavior and upright life. Why, he even exceeds the religious demands of first century Judaism! His prayer sounds right: a good man thanking God for his good behavior. What’s the problem? We know there is a problem because Jesus is obviously telling this parable with a critical eye towards the good Pharisee.

We also note that in the second reading Paul enumerates his own accomplishments in the faith, "I have completed well; I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." In fact, he’s even looking forward to his reward, "the crown of righteousness awaits me…." Why isn’t Paul criticized for extolling his good life the way the Pharisee is?

A real estate friend recently quoted the famous dictum of his profession, "There are three things that count when buying a house: location, location and location." We can apply a similar guide to the two characters in today’s parable. Location is a clue to what is happening. Notice where the Pharisee and tax collectors are located as they pray.

The Pharisee went to the Temple, but he isn’t there praying with his community. He is by himself praying prayers in the first person singular. His prayer is full of "I’s" – I am not… I fast… I pay tithes… Etc." He has not come to be with and pray with his Jewish brothers and sisters. He is not praying for his community, or those in need. He is detached from anyone else. He has taken up "his position," and it is not a place that includes others – the needy, sick, sinners, outcasts etc. He also separates himself spiritually from others. There was only one required fast each year – the Day of Atonement. But he fasts twice a week. He is in crediting God for his laudatory life – at least it seems so, but the prayer’s focus is on himself, not God. God really doesn’t play any part in his life. He doesn’t need God at all to be an outstanding and recognized religious person.

The tax collector’s location is also apart from others, but for a different reason. He would have been despised by his community. After all, tax collectors were Jewish men who made their living, a very comfortable living, raising taxes from the Jews for the Romans. Note his grammar. He is not praying in the first person, singular – "I". He is not the subject of his prayer, God is. God is doing the work and he is a recipient of God’s mercy. "Oh God, be merciful to me, a sinner." He is not focusing on his actions, good or bad, he’s trusting in God’s mercy.

Jesus extols the tax collector’s humility: he knows himself, does not pretend to be anything other than himself. He relies on God to do for him what he can’t do for himself, "Oh God, be merciful to me a sinner." He can’t claim mercy based on his merits. But he can ask for it because he needs it and trusts God will give it to him.

Jesus’ listeners would have been surprised by this parable. They would have held the Pharisee in high regard by the evidence of his life. But the parable presents our proper relationship before God, not merited by any human action, however grand, but based on God’s merciful gift of forgiveness.

The parable is a cautionary tale for religious people, especially those of us in public ministry, ordained or lay. We have to be awake to our own spiritual poverty. In our service to others in need we might set ourselves apart serving "them." Not a good "location" for a disciple of the One who kept company and ate with sinners. The love of God which we profess can turn into self-love. We can look upon the gifts we have from God as rewards for our behavior. Like the Pharisee our prayer can easily become a boast. When the Pharisee left the Temple that day he may have felt satisfied, but he certainly wasn’t any different from the person he was when he entered and began to pray. His prayer was not an openness to God and the change God might want to bring about in him. He may have felt content as he left the Temple that day, but his prayer didn’t result in any growth in his relationship with God. But the tax collector left changed by God’s grace.

Those of us who might feel our "location" is apart from the upright members of the church, because we are newcomers, divorced, gay, unemployed, poor, racially and ethnically apart, need to hear Jesus’ words about the tax collector. We might not always experience our worth in the community, but Jesus reminds us of our worth before God – the humble will be exalted. As a church community we need to remember Jesus’ words as we look around at the folks physically or socially in the back pews of our parish church, or the "back pews" of our local community.

Note Paul’s "location." He’s writing to his disciple Timothy from prison, anticipating his death. He was ejected, abandoned by his companions. His trust in God isn’t based on his own merits, but on the Lord who, "will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom." Like the tax collector Paul is not the subject of the sentence, he is the object, that is, the recipient of Christ’s graciousness. "To him be glory forever and ever. Amen." Paul has chosen the right "location" – he is on the receiving end of God’s graciousness, and he knows it. For that he continually praises God.

Jesus addressed the parable to "those who were convinced of their own righteousness." The English word "righteousness" has a negative sound. We don’t like people who are "self righteous" – like the Pharisee. But in the Bible a righteous person is in right relations with God. Isn’t that what we want? Paul is anticipating the "crown of righteousness" that awaits him. A righteous person has been faithful to the covenant. Paul credits his righteousness not from any work he can take credit for, but from his faith in Jesus. That faith makes him "righteous." He knows it is a gift from God – and so he is not self-righteous. In the parable who turns out to be righteous, or just, in God’s eyes? It’s a tax collector who is in right relations with God, not because of any work he has done, like the Pharisee’s fasting and tithing, but by God’s gift – a gift he did nothing to earn.

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


If you love the justice of Jesus Christ more than you fear human judgment, then you will seek to do compassion.

----Mechthild of Magdeburg (1210-1282)


R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

Psalm 34

1. Our Catholic social teaching gives preferential treatment to the poor. With the elections fast approaching, how do the teachings of our Church, founded on the Word of God, influence our discernment about choosing elected officials? On July 4th weekend I published excerpts from the USCCB document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (2015 Edition). I feel they are worth repeating.

As the bishops state, in the introduction to Part 1:

2.The political realities of our nation present us with opportunities and challenges. . .These challenges are at the heart of public life and at the center of the pursuit of the common good. They are intertwined and inseparable. As Pope Francis has insisted, "We are faced . . . with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature" (Laudato Si', no. 139).

In one section of the text, the bishops ask the question, "What does the Church say about Catholic social teaching in the public square?" and then go on to spell out the four permanent principles by beginning with this quote, "The permanent principles of the Church’s social doctrine constitute the very heart of Catholic social teaching. These are the principles of: the dignity of the human person, . . .the common good; subsidiarity; and solidarity. These principles [are] the expression of the whole truth about man known by reason and faith . . ." (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 160).

The following highlights from the document define these four principles:

44. Human life is sacred. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.

48. The principle of subsidiarity reminds us that larger institutions in society should not overwhelm or interfere with smaller or local institutions, yet larger institutions have essential responsibilities when the more local institutions cannot adequately protect human dignity, meet human needs, and advance the common good (Centesimus Annus, 48; Dignitatis Humanae, 4-6)

49. Human dignity is respected and the common good is fostered only if human rights are protected and basic responsibilities are met.

52. "We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions and requires us to eradicate racism and address the extreme poverty and disease plaguing so much of the world. Solidarity also includes the scriptural call to welcome the stranger among us" and the "preferential option for the poor" (53). 55. These four principles and related themes from Catholic social teaching provide a moral framework that does not easily fit ideologies of "right" or "left," "liberal" or "conservative," or the platform of any political party. They are not partisan or sectarian, but reflect fundamental ethical principles that are common to all people.

As leaders of the Church in the United States, the bishops conclude this section by saying, "We hope Catholics and others will seriously consider these policy applications as they make their own decisions in public life" (56).

Gather with your family and friends to discuss how these principles might be applied to the current situation. Listen carefully to those seeking office to discern who truly desires to serve all citizens of the land, including the poor and vulnerable. Be an informed voter.

-----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 second Letter of Paul to Timothy:

"The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat

and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.

To him be glory forever and ever. Amen"


Paul’s trust in God isn’t based on his own merits, but on the Lord who, "will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom." Like the tax collector in today’s gospel, Paul is not the subject of the sentence, he is the object, that is, the recipient of Christ’s graciousness.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Do I subtly take credit for my good works, or do I see God as their source?
  • What are my gifts to offer in God’s service? Do I acknowledge and thank God for them.


"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:

  • John Henry Thompson #0406487 (On death row since 11/14/02)
  • Terry Moore #0290634 (6/14/03)
  • Jerrrey N. Duke #0113234 (9/26/03)

----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



First Impressions Archive

Click on a link button below to view the reflection indicated.

(The newest items are always listed first.)

30th Sunday 29th Sunday 27th/28th Sundays 26th Sunday 25th Sunday 24th Sunday

Home Contact Us Site Map St. Dominic

© Copyright 2005 - 2016 ● Dominican Friars