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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

8th SUNDAY (A) February 26, 2017

Isaiah 49: 14-15; I Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6: 24-34

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

 

   The 8th

Sunday in

Ordinary

Time

Did Jesus tell his disciples not to worry "about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body…", because he wasn’t living in the 21st century? In our modern times hundreds of thousands are fleeing civil strife and terrorism in their homelands. Tens of thousands of refugees are being turned away from the borders of countries they hoped would offer them safety? In our own country families facing under-employment might not want to look up at "the birds in the air who do not sow or reap." They are too busy looking down at their feet, putting one foot in front of the other. Many in our country and billions elsewhere, are just hoping to make it through to tomorrow.

Perhaps we need to wait till things get better in the world, or our private lives, then we will have time to open to chapter 6 in Matthew, read today’s passage and tranquilly "consider the lilies." Maybe Jesus was only addressing a select group of prosperous merchants at a seaside Mediterranean retreat somewhere: people with plenty of time, leisure and security. If he were, we could easily dismiss what he says today as being out of touch with "the real world," – our world.

It turns out Jesus wasn’t speaking at a seaside spa for the rich and famous. He was talking to his disciples, a motley group in the eyes of the established. Nor was he unaware of their daily struggles to survive; he came from their class and location. Galilee was considered the "boonies" in the eyes of the big city Jerusalem folk.

Still, to the poor and disenfranchised he advises that when they dream their dreams for themselves and their children, God must be their focus. God and God’s righteousness were to take first place when they considered their plans for the future and their choices for each day.

If God is also our first consideration, then God is the one we must trust to help us fulfill our goals and endeavors. Not all we hope to accomplish, even with the best intentions to do good, will succeed. Still, even in failure, we trust God’s love and care for us. God does not desert us when our projects fail or come up short.

If however, we choose mammon as the "master," or guiding principle, that defines who we are and what we want out of life, then we have, as Jesus will tell us in next week’s gospel, "built a house on sand." The first storm we experience will show how fragile our life’s building project has been, disappointment and even collapse will be the outcome.

Jesus’ disciples had made their choice to leave their families and possessions behind to follow him. Christ would be there master. At first, during the days when Jesus was enthusiastically received by the crowds, those disciples must have thought they had made a choice for success. Then their hopes collapsed with his death. But with his resurrection a new life they never could have imagined, opened for them. In Jesus, they chose to serve God not mammon and that made all the difference.

Many of us are struggling and worrying over real concerns these days. Perhaps Jesus’ words will broaden our vision and help us focus: less on ourselves and more on those in need; less about getting and more about giving; less worrying about our own welfare and turning our attention to others – their struggles as immigrants, their lack of healthcare, their children’s need for proper nutrition and education, etc.

Choices Jesus asks us to make don’t happen just once in our lifetime. They come every day, in large and small ways. How will my being Jesus’ disciple affect the decisions I must make right now? What will be the consequences of my choices for me? How will my decisions affect others? Jesus leaves very little wiggle room for us, "no one can serve two masters. You will either hate one and love the other, will be attentive to one and despise the other."

Originally Jesus spoke these words to very poor disciples. He was inviting them to follow him and trust that God would provide for them. Over 50 years later Matthew wrote his gospel for his community in Antioch. They were a more secure and established community than Jesus’ original followers. They were more like us. To them Jesus’ words would be as challenging as they are to us today.

Soon after hearing this gospel we will be receiving the Eucharist. Before that we will pray the Lord’s Prayer together and say, "hallowed be thy name." We want our lives to reflect the holiness of God so that people will be able to discern in our actions that we have chosen to serve the caring and providential God Jesus revealed to us. We will also pray, "give us this day our daily bread," because we know that each day we are going to need strength and wisdom so that we can keep choosing God over both the obvious and also subtle disguises mammon takes.

Next week Lent begins. It’s a season when many of us decide to make some personal sacrifices. We do it for many reasons: to deepen our awareness of our spiritual life and our inner hunger for God; to give up something we like and give the money we save to the poor; to express sorrow for our sins, etc. These and many others are noble and worthy intentions indeed. (Less noble perhaps is the desire to use the season for weight loss – a kind of Lenten Weight Watchers!)

We could use the Sermon on the Mount we have been hearing these Sundays as a guide for our Lenten practice. Why not use a portion of the Sermon each evening as our nightly examen? Before retiring for the night we might ask: How did we do this day?

So, for example, reviewing today’s gospel we ask: Did we try to serve two masters today and compromise our love for Christ? Though we might be in tight financial situations, did our worrying leave God’s loving providence out of the picture?

Were we so preoccupied with our health that we were less sensitive to the needs around us of family, friends and stranger? Are we spending too much on clothes and personal grooming, becoming insensitive to the very poor who lack decent clothing and health care for their families? Are we overdoing the purchase and consumption of pricey and specialty foods, while not seeing the hungry in our community?

In other words, are God’s concerns our concerns? What have we done this day to manifest to others the "righteous" God who has forgiven our sins and brought us into loving relationship through Christ? For those of us who worry about the future, possible loss of health and our inevitable deaths, did those worries distract us from seeing God acting graciously towards us this day?

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/022617.cfm

QUOTABLE


The end of a thing,

is never the end,

something is always being born,

like a year or a baby.

------Lucille Clifton, "December"
 

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

Pour out your hearts to God our refuge!

Psalm 62: 9

Earlier this month I participated at an immigration rally on Halifax Mall in downtown Raleigh. There were so many people of good will present--such a blessing! I was there with two other USCCB Justice for Immigrants members and carried a sign with the words spoken by Pope Francis when he visited Independence Mall in Philadelphia, (9/26/15). He prophetically states, "We remember the great struggles which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and the gradual effort to eliminate every kind of racism and prejudice directed at successive waves of new Americans. This shows that when a country is determined to remain true to its founding principles, based on respect for human dignity, it is strengthened and renewed." These words guide my steps and I was happy to be able to be part of another nonviolent action that affirms so many primary Catholic social teachings--the dignity of the human person, the call to community participation, the option for the poor and vulnerable, and loving solidarity.

This Lent, I invite you to take a special journey with Gospel nonviolence presented by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. It is an invitation to a journey, like Jesus’ journey into the wilderness for forty days. This present moment is a wilderness time. We are living in a world of uncertainty. Lent invites us to reflection and self-examination, while the life and teachings of Jesus help us understand what the fullness of life looks like: love, inclusion, forgiveness, mercy, sacrifice--and nonviolence. As Ken Butigan, director of 'Pace e Bene,' and Father John Dear, nonviolence activist, write, in a paper for the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference held in Rome in April 2016, "The word nonviolence illuminates the heart of the Gospel--the proclamation of the Reign of God, a new nonviolent order rooted in God’s unconditional love." www.maryknollogc.org

This Lenten Reflection series will be hosted at Our Lady of Lourdes parish in their Fallon Center and is open to area parishioners. The dates are March 5, 12, 19 26, and April 2 from 2-4 PM. The series includes: speakers, videos, and resources.

RSVP at socialconcern@sacredheartcathedral.org by Feb. 28

Pour out your hearts this Lent and learn how to help others by living a Gospel life of nonviolence.

----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:

Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters.

You will either hate one and love the other,

or be devoted to one and despise the other.

You cannot serve God and mammon.

Reflection:

We could use the Sermon on the Mount we have been hearing these Sundays, as a guide for our Lenten practice. Why not use a portion of the Sermon each evening as our nightly examen? So, for example, based on today’s gospel, we might ask ourselves: Today did I try to serve two masters and thus compromise my love for Christ? Though I might be in a tight financial situation, did my worrying leave God’s loving providence out of the picture?

So we ask ourselves:

  • How seriously do I take Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount?
  • Which of his teachings do I find the hardest to fulfill?

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:

  • Jeffrey Barrett #0021418 (On death row since 6/1/93)
  • Norfolk Best #0030124 (6/7/93)
  • James Campbell #0063592 (7/8/93)

----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/

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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