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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

10th Sunday -C- June 5, 2016

I Kings 17: 17-24; Psalm 30; Galatians 1: 11-19; Luke 7: 11-17

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

Who wouldn’t feel compassion for the two widows in today’s Scriptures? While Elijah is a guest at the home of the widow of Zarephath her child dies. Jesus, his disciples and a large crowd are traveling to Nain. On the way they meet a funeral procession for the son of another widow.

In their societies women had to depend on the male members of their families for support and protection. For widows that task would have fallen to their sons. So, besides losing their sons, the two widows are also made vulnerable. The Zarephath widow’s son is still young, but she would one day need him. Without the care of their sons the widows would have had to return to their families, or in-laws to survive. In a poor society this might not be possible and so they would become destitute. Luke emphasizes the widow of Nain’s fragile condition when he tells us that the dead man was, "the only son of his mother and she was a widow."

Elijah and Jesus weren’t merely wonder workers who could, through their own powers, raise the dead. Their miracles are attributed to God’s intervention. After her son is given back to her the widow exclaims, "The word of the Lord comes truly from your mouth." When Jesus raises the young man from the dead the crowd glorifies God saying, "A great prophet has risen in our midst," and "God has visited his people."

In neither account do the widows ask the prophets for help. Elijah and Jesus take it upon themselves to come to their aid. Those who experienced the miracles attribute them to God. It is best summed up by the people’s acclamation in the gospel, "Fear seized them all, and they glorified God…." It is the kind of fear humans have before the awesome power of God. Who else but God can raise the dead? The widow of Zarephath comes to a similar conclusion when she says to Elijah, "Now indeed I know that you are a man of God."

Note the difference between how Elijah and Jesus accomplished their miracles. Elijah performs a ritual act by lying on top of the boy several times. Jesus, on the other hand, does not even touch the young man. He simply commands him, "Young man, I tell you arise." Jesus shows his authority: he speaks and the good work is accomplished. It is another example of the power of the Word of God – the same Word we hear proclaimed to us at each liturgical celebration. It is a Word that can revive our drooping spirits and put new life into our prayer. The Word can restore hope that has died and love that has grown cold.

"Widow" doesn’t just apply to women who have lost their husbands. It can be a term to describe women in situations similar to the widows in today’s readings. I recently preached at a parish near San Francisco. It is a great city with ocean and bay views on three sides. Like older cities it has diverse neighborhoods. What is happening in San Francisco is also happening in other American cities. The poor are being pushed out by gentrification and the resulting higher rents.

I heard of a single mother with two children who had a low wage job. Her husband deserted her and their children. She is a "widow" now, comparable to our biblical women. She couldn’t afford it when her landlord doubled her rent and now she and her children are homeless.

We can also call poor men and women in similar circumstances "widows." They are vulnerable and desperate for help. Some are parents whose children have died from drug overdoses, or been victims of violence. Like the widow of Nain, these victims of powerful societal forces are also caught in a funeral procession of sorts.

Our prophets Elijah and Jesus reveal whose side God takes in dire circumstances. God is on the side of the "widows" – the ones who suffer and have no one to act or speak on their behalf. Jesus’ miracle shows God stopping the powerful force of death and giving hope of new life to the desperate. Elijah and Jesus acted for the good even though no specific request was made of them. Ours is a God of gratuitous goodness, coming to help us even before we ask. God’s Word also challenges the faithful community to do the same – act for the good before being asked.

Paul is very conscious that the good he has received from God was pure gift. God, he says, "was pleased to reveal his son to me so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles." The Christian community has also received the gift of Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us recipients of such a wonderful gift that now we too must proclaim Christ to others.

We proclaim Jesus Christ by doing what he did: coming to the aid of the "widows" of our world: whoever is alone, in desperate straits and in need our help. Pope Francis has declared this a "Year of Mercy." He has called us to be in solidarity with the poor and find ways to reveal God’s love for them through our words and actions. Earlier in Luke’s Gospel Jesus gave us our marching orders, "Be merciful, just as your father is merciful" (Luke 6:36). It is what he did throughout his life and now, with the grace Paul has proclaimed, it is our turn to do the same.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060516.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"Elijah went to Zarephath of Sidon to the house of a widow."

1 Kings 17:17

Today’s readings speak of mothers and sons. The Bible also many readings of fathers and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, friends and strangers. You might say that the Bible is the pre-eminent book of relationships, even bad relationships.

I had the opportunity, a month or so ago, to attend a presentation by Jack Jezreel, the founder of the JustFaith program. He makes an interesting statement that has given me great moments of meditation. He cites an example of a church member who was telling him of the great work his parish did giving clothes to the poor, handing out food, and so forth. Jezreel tells the man that, while this is good, "giving stuff is not charity. Charity is about relationship." He states further, "If you want to follow Jesus, you are going to have to hit the road so you can have an encounter, not to change those you meet but to change yourself." This is what we see over and over in the Bible, people encountering others. Jesus can be found, as Jezreel states, "on the road." Pope Francis also draws forth this sentiment of encounter.

Pope Francis states: "We thank God, who has raised up in many a desire to be close to their neighbor and to follow in this manner the law of charity which is the heart of the Gospel. But charity is even yet more authentic and more incisive when it is lived in communion. Communion shows that charity is not merely about helping others, but is a dimension that permeates the whole of life and breaks down all those barriers of individualism which prevent us from encountering one another" (1/10/15). A month later, he elaborates his theme of encounter, when he speaks these words: "In order to be "imitators of Christ" (cf. 1 Cor 11:1) in the face of a poor or sick person, we must not be afraid to look him in the eye and to draw near with tenderness and compassion, and to touch him and embrace him. I have often asked this of people who help others, to do so looking them in the eye, not to be afraid to touch them; that this gesture of help may also be a gesture of communication: we too need to be welcomed by them. A gesture of tenderness, a gesture of compassion.... Let us ask you: when you help others, do you look them in the eye? Do you embrace them without being afraid to touch them? Do you embrace them with tenderness? Think about this: how do you help? From a distance or with tenderness, with closeness? (2/15/15, Angelus).

Ask yourself, "Am I practicing charity based on relationship?

----Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

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

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.

10th Sunday -C- June 5, 2016

I Kings 17: 17-24; Psalm 30; Galatians 1: 11-19; Luke 7: 11-17

From today’s Galatians reading

"God, who from my mother’s womb has set me apart

and called me through his grace,

was pleased to reveal his Son to me...."

Reflection:

Paul is very conscious that the good he has received from God was pure gift. Through our Baptism the Christian community has also received the gift of Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us that, as recipients of such a wonderful gift, we too must proclaim Christ to others.

So we ask ourselves:

  • How do we proclaim Christ to others in our daily lives?
  • Have we been reluctant or felt intimidated to speak and act on Christ’s behalf?

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"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:

  • James F. Davis #0510234 (On death row since 10/2/96)
  • MelvinL. White #0434355 (10/15/96)
  • Gary A. Trull #0412440 (11/19/96)

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

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the webpage of the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.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, Texas 75062-4736

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

(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 Jboll@opsouth.org.

3. Our webpage: http://www.preacherexchange.com

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,

St. Albert Priory

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

 


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