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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

18th SUNDAY -C- July 31, 2016

Ecclesiastes 1: 2; 2:21-23; Psalm 95; Colossians 3: 1-5, 9-11; Luke 12: 13-21

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

WELCOME: To the latest email recipients of "First Impressions" the retreatants from the Vallombrosa Center, Menlo Park, California.



 

   18th

Sunday in

Ordinary

Time

When our congregation hears the Ecclesiastes reading today they will wonder who Qoheleth is. It is probably not the name of one person, but might refer to a student gathering, or a collection of wisdom sayings. People may not know the meaning of the word Qoheleth, but you don’t have to be a Bible scholar to understand the message.

The opening lines are a good summary of the whole book of Ecclesiastes: "Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity." Another translation of the Hebrew could be "breath" or "vapor." One translator has it: "utter futility!" So, "all things" are "breath," "vapor," or "utterly futility. We are reminded by Ecclesiastes that the things of this world are ephemeral. It is as if a person has reached the end of their days and is looking back. Their life is almost over and they realize they have invested their precious energies on things no more substantial than breath or vapor. What a downer!

The sage offers us plenty of material for reflection today. Where and how are we using our time and best energies? While we need to support our families, and take care of ourselves now and for the future, how much is too much? Are our energies well spent? Whom do they include and who is left out of our concerns? Ecclesiastes is part of the Hebrew wisdom literature. Despite its gloomy and pessimistic outlook, it does offer some perspective.

I want to look back on my life and feel I have, for the most part, lived it wisely. I don’t want to be shocked someday, like the man in today’s parable, who heard the dreadful accusation, "You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?" For the person hearing those words the opportunity to reevaluate and change has passed. He is not being offered time and he has no control over his fate – his life will be "demanded" of him.

But, unlike the man, we still have time. The parable is stark, but offers grace. Like a security alarm that warns us of danger it can, like Ecclesiastes, be shining a light on our lives and offering us wisdom. The parable presents an unfortunate, but not uncommon scene. For example, who hasn’t heard of a major conflict and break among formally close sisters and brothers over a parent’s estate? A close relationship is torn to pieces. Even when parents did what they could to prevent this type of conflict, after their deaths, the children go to court to get what they can from the inheritance. The arguments aren’t usually over the necessities for survival, but a grab for as much as possible. We seem to want more and more, thinking that will make us happy. Meanwhile, there is that intrusive voice that enters the scene and says, "You fool…." Jesus has also taught elsewhere that it is not our riches that can secure life. Maybe the parable will open our eyes and help us put limits on how much we want – and help us construct a boundary between sanity and insanity

A long time ago Peggy Lee had a popular song called, "Is That All There Is?" It was a song of dissatisfaction and disappointment. Is that how the man in the parable was acting? Did he not see beyond this present life? Did he conclude that this life was all there was for him so, as Peggy Lee sang, "If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball. If that’s all there is."

The rich man lived as if, "that’s all there is." If he were a devout Jew he would have acknowledged the bountiful harvest he had as a gift from God. He would have shared with those who were in need. There is no mention in the parable that he had family. Would they have had any say in what he did with his rich harvest? Nor did he ask advice from his workers and friends. Jesus sums it up when he says, "Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves, but are not rich in what matters to God."

The man’s focus was himself. His chief advisor was himself. The only beneficiary to his actions would be himself. Notice how many times "I" is used in his decision-making. God’s response: "You fool." He consulted a fool for advice and got a fool’s response. The man loved his riches, that’s where his heart was. But he would have no opportunity to enjoy his wealth, because he would die that night. Do we presume God is going to strike him dead? There are other possible causes for his death. A rich man who hoarded his wealth could have been killed by thieves, disgruntled workers, even a jealous member of his family. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Jesus accuses the man of not being "rich in what matters to God." He was habitually disposed to think of himself first, instead of pondering where true happiness lies and then acting on what he discovered. God is the source of true happiness and Jesus links love of neighbor with love of God. Loving God and showing it through love of neighbor would have brought him happiness. But there is no mention of neighbor in this parable; it is just the man talking to himself.

The man’s life is about to take a sudden turn; he will die that night. There are other ways for our lives to take sudden turns: the results of a medical exam; the phone call at 2 AM; the death of a family member, or beloved friend; a layoff at work; the breakup of a marriage. These and many other crises can make life very difficult to bear; but they can be devastating if our lives are not rooted in God, who is our rock in hard times and our strength to see us through.

Money can give out on us. But it can also be the means by which we express where our treasure lies. Besides using it to cover life’s basic needs, how else do we use our resources? Do we use our money to care for the least? And it isn’t just about money, is it? Our calendar can tell us how we use another treasure – our time – and it will show where our treasure lies. As the end approaches the elderly, or terminally ill, sometimes express regret with how they used their time. They will recall how they worried and were fretful over unimportant concerns and lost sight of what really mattered. Why wait till the end? Why not put this question to ourselves. "What really matters in my life and what am I doing about it?" To put it another way: we need to open our barn doors and share our treasures with others.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/073116.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness

Psalm 90:14

I love daybreak. Recently, I opened the drapes to see the early morning light streaming, like grace-filled ribbons, through my little woods. God gives us each day to begin again. The simplicity of the early morning always seems to get complicated quickly by the demands on our lives. One of the barriers to retaining a simple life is the importance we give to things rather than God and human relationships. The conspicuous consumerism that is pushed by advertising often says who we are is determined by what we own. And so, we mistakenly acquire more and more. If we have too many belongings, we suffer for it.

This summer is a great time to reduce, repair, repurpose, or recycle the things of our lives. The Chinese have a practice called "Feng Shui" in which they clear out stuff in order to bring new energy into their lives. In Christianity, sharing our abundance with those less fortunate, helps us regain our priorities and find our true selves. Below are listed some of the agencies/ministries where you can share some of your stash:

  • Bargain Box 401 Woodburn Rd. (Cameron Village) Raleigh
  • Catholic Parish Outreach--baby clothing (infant through toddler), equipment, toys, and books and maternity clothing 2013 Raleigh Blvd. Raleigh
  • DORCAS Thrift Shop 187 High House Rd. Cary
  • Dress for Success--professional women’s clothing, shoes, accessories 1812 Tillery Place Raleigh
  • First Baptist Church clothing shop 99 N. Salisbury St. Raleigh
  • Gabriel Project--a Sacred Heart ministry assisting pregnant women
  • Garner Area Ministries 401 Aversboro Rd. Garner
  • Green Chair Project--furniture & accessories 1853 Capital Blvd. Raleigh
  • Habitat for Humanity ReStore--building and home products 2420 Raleigh Blvd. Raleigh (there are also stores in Cary, Apex, and Fuquay-Varina)
  • Helping Hand Mission 623 Rock Quarry Rd. Raleigh
  • Interact’s Pass It On Too 1012 Oberlin Rd. Raleigh
  • North Raleigh Ministries Thrift Store 9650 Strickland Rd. Ste. 161 Raleigh
  • A Note in the Pocket--a Sacred Heart ministry for gently used school clothing
  • Wheels for Hope--auto donations 929 S. Saunders St. Raleigh
  • With Love from Jesus 421 Chapanoke Rd. Raleigh

Fill someone’s daybreak with your kindness.

----Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

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

FAITH BOOK

18th SUNDAY -C- July 31, 2016

Ecclesiastes 1: 2; 2:21-23; Psalm 95; Colossians 3: 1-5, 9-11; Luke 12: 13-21

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:

But God said to [the rich man],

"You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you,

and the things you have prepared, to whom will they go?"

Reflection:

The man’s life is about to take a sudden turn; he will die that night. There are many ways our lives can take a sudden turn. A crisis can make life very difficult to bear; but it can be devastating, if our lives are not rooted in God, who is our rock in hard times and our strength to see us through.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Besides using money to cover life’s basic needs, how else do we use our resources?
  • Do we use our money to care for the least and do we reach out beyond our usual circle to give?

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:

  • John Williams #0599379 (On death row since 3/5/98)
  • Danny Frogg #0137368 (3/7/98)
  • Allen Holman #0587681 (4/7/98)

----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,

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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