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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

23rd SUNDAY -C- September 4, 2016

Wisdom 9: 13-18; Psalm 90; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14: 25-33

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

 

   23rd

Sunday in

Ordinary

Time

Lots of promises are being made during this election cycle. But complaints have been leveled at candidates for not being specific. How exactly are they going to make up for a cut in taxes? What’s going to happen to the 11 million undocumented people living in this country? How exactly do they intend to make the country safer?

People complain that we don’t hear how they are going to solve some of the major issues affecting our country these days. One news analysts suggest that the candidates have been given "talking points" by their campaign managers. The candidates are practiced not to answer a question directly, but to get to the "talking points." They must stay with the program. Candidates can’t afford to turn their audiences off. They can’t slip-up, especially in nationally televised debates – which we will soon be hearing. How else are they going to get votes and win over a large following?

Imagine a politician talking to a crowd of potential followers, telling them what Jesus told the crowds following him on the road to Jerusalem that day. A campaign manager would have told him, "Listen, you’ve got a large and enthusiastic crowd. Don’t lose them, don’t turn them off!" But Jesus didn’t have polished speechwriters, or campaign managers. He just had the strength and drawing power of himself and his message.

What politician would stand before an audience and tell them, "If you’re going to vote for me, your voting to lose your homes and families. You’ll be deciding to lose what you love best. So, come on, make a choice. Are you going to follow me?" In sum, that’s what Jesus is saying. "Choose me over family, if they are holding you back. Be prepared to give our possessions, if they are holding you back. And, oh yes, be prepared for a nasty death."

In Jesus’ time people didn’t consider themselves as individuals the way we Americans do, we "rugged individuals." They got their identity and social standing from belonging to family, clan, village and religious group. It would be unimaginable to cut oneself off from family. It would be like losing one’s life.

The cost of following Jesus might mean tension, even rupture in one’s biological family. In fact, in the early church there were examples of children being turned over to the Romans by their families for being Christians. A choice for Jesus, certainly would seem like hatred towards one’s family. "If anyone comes to me without hating their father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even their own life, they cannot be my disciple." Can you hear the family arguments? "How could you do this to us? How could you embarrass us before our friends? Why would you want to join that rabble, those Christians?

Jesus wants his hearers to ponder what he says. Be like a builder, calculate the cost before you decide to build. Don’t start what you can’t finish. Consider what Jesus is asking before you throw your lot in with him. Remember, the journey we are following him on is going to Jerusalem. It will cost. He is asking us to take on whatever difficult burden we must in order to follow him, and to leave behind what holds us back, or slows us down. The final line lays it out quite starkly: "In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all their possessions cannot be my disciple."

Well aren’t we followers of Jesus already? We have been baptized, most of us as infants. We don’t have to make the hard decisions Jesus is asking those potential followers to make, do we? I think Jesus is trying to jolt us regulars too, to wake us up. How have we fallen into routine and habit in our faith?

Despite the recent heat summer is coming to an end. We have already begun to turn the lights on earlier. But if you’re like me there are things I said I was going to do at the beginning of summer that I never got around to. "This summer I’m going to...." There were "must read" books that are still unread. I never did get around to brushing up on my Spanish. Did you do that extra exercise you said you were going to do? Did you eat less sweets, more fresh vegetables and fruits? Did you clear out the closet and get rid of the clothes you no longer wear? Well, never mind, no big deal. There’s always next summer.

In contrast Jesus uses stark language today to make a point. There is no putting off decisions we must make and changes we have not yet gotten around to. It’s not about later, it’s about now. We must carefully think out and weigh decisions: how are we to respond to Jesus today? What is very clear from the gospel is that it costs to serve completely and utterly this Christ we call Lord. My mother would say, "No if’s and no buts."

One thing is for sure, as followers of Christ we can’t coast. We certainly can’t say we live in a "Christian country" and just go along with our government and society’s values. Jesus says we have to consider to what nation and family we belong. We are members of his family and citizens of the kingdom of God. At this meal we come forward once again to claim our allegiance to Jesus and in the Eucharist recommit ourselves to his way.

Jesus is asking new followers and long-time Christians for careful consideration. We can’t be naïve in our commitment to him; can’t run on cruise control. Our priorities must be grounded in him and if they are, sacrifice will be asked of us. I was tempted to say "may be asked of us." But there is no doubt what Jesus is asking of his followers, that sacrifice will be asked of us. Make that the present tense: is being asked of us.

Isn’t that why we gather here, because we need food and drink to stay on the journey with Jesus to Jerusalem? There’s always a danger of compromise, or giving up on the journey. From what Jesus says today discipleship will require us to make difficult choices about: a life partner; how we are to use our resources; our career choice; responding to Jesus’s call to serve the poor, etc. Following Jesus is not about what will be asked of us, but what is being asked of us right now; living our commitment to Christ fully this day. We need food for this journey. That is what Jesus gives us today, here and now, present tense, nothing less than his whole self.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090416.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

Prosper the work of our hands. Prosper the work of our hands.

Psalm 90:17

This Labor Day is a good time to reflect on one of the major themes of Catholic social teaching--the dignity of work and the rights of workers. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops writes: "The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected then the basic rights of workers must be respected--the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative." Let us examine the pieces of this statement as presented in the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ 1986 document, "Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy."

The economy must serve people, not the other way around.

13. Every economic decision and institution must be judged in light of whether it protects or undermines the dignity of the human person. The pastoral letter begins with the human person. We believe the person is sacred—the clearest reflection of God among us. Human dignity comes from God, not from nationality, race, sex, economic status, or any human accomplishment. We judge any economic system by what it does for and to people and by how it permits all to participate.

Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.

15. It is through employment that most individuals and families meet their material needs, exercise their talents, and have an opportunity to contribute to the larger community. Such participation has special significance in our tradition because we believe that it is a means by which we join in carrying forward God's creative activity.

If the dignity of work is to be protected then the basic rights of workers must be respected.

17. In Catholic teaching, human rights include not only civil and political rights but also economic rights. As Pope John XXIII declared, "all people have a right to life, food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, education, and employment." This means that when people are without a chance to earn a living, and must go hungry and homeless, they are being denied basic rights. Society must ensure that these rights are protected. In this way we will ensure that the minimum conditions of economic justice are met for all our sisters and brothers.

Labor Day should challenge us to uphold these truths. http://www.usccb.org/upload/economic_justice_for_all.pdf

---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.

From today’s Gospel reading

"If anyone comes to me without hating their father and mother,

wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even their own life,

they cannot be my disciple."

Reflection:

Jesus uses stark language today to make a point. There is no putting off decisions we must make and changes we have not yet gotten around to. We must carefully think out and weigh: how are to respond to Jesus today? What is very clear from the gospel is that it costs to serve completely and utterly this Christ we call Lord.

So we ask ourselves:

  • What decisions have we been putting that we know Christ is asking us to make?
  • What will be the costs for us if we make these decisions?

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:

  • Cerron T. Hooks #0561692 (On death row since 2/9/00)
  • Terry L. Robinson #0349019 (4/10/00)
  • Mark L. Squires #0688223 (5/17/00)

----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: 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,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626

 


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