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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

7th SUNDAY OF EASTER (A) MAY 28, 2017

Acts 1: 12-14; Psalm 27; I Peter 4: 13-16; John 17: 1-11a

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

PRE-NOTE:

In some dioceses the Ascension is celebrated today. For a reflection on the Ascension go to our webpage: http://www.preacherexchange.com/latest.htm and then to "First Impressions," where you will find a link to the "Ascension of the Lord."



 

  The 7th 

SUNDAY

of

EASTER

This is the last Sunday of the Easter season – a reminder again how fast time flies! On these Sundays since Easter we have been hearing accounts of the resurrected Jesus’ appearances to his disciples. We just celebrated his Ascension and now we await the coming of his promise, the Paraclete. We, like those disciples, Mary and the women in the upper room are praying and waiting for the Spirit who will renew us once again and send us on mission.

Today though, we are at table in John’s account of the Last Supper. With the disciples, we overhear Jesus’ prayer to his Father for them, his followers. In the Synoptic Gospels there are frequent mentions of Jesus praying, but here in John we are given the content of a long prayer. In the other Gospels, at this point in the Last Supper, Jesus and the eleven leave and go to the Mount of Olives. Jesus had already predicted the desertion by the disciples. But in John, at the same point in the meal, Jesus prays.

While the others will desert him, Jesus’ prayer reveals that he is not alone, because he has special communion with God. Even though the disciples have deserted Jesus, their desertion is not permanent, they will return and then, gifted with the Spirit, the community will give witness to him. Jesus does not see his death as the end of his life’s work, or as a disaster for his disciples. He says, "I will no longer be in the world" – he is going to the Father – still, he will be with those he left in the world in a new way.

John says, "Jesus raised his eyes to heaven…." This could convey that the Father is on high and far off. Instead, the image signals to us that Jesus has entered into intimate conversation with his Father and we are being given the privilege of listening in. What we overhear is the truth of Jesus’ identity, and how we will participate with him in fulfilling God’s plan.

The prayer we hear today is called the "High Priestly Prayer," or the "Prayer of Consecration." In it Jesus offers his priestly prayer for his disciples and consecrates himself and them to the sacrifice that was going to be required of him and them. What makes the prayer significant is the intimacy it expresses between the Father and the Son.

Note, for a moment, the similarities between this prayer in chapter 17 and the "Lord’s Prayer in the other Gospels. The prayer begins "Father" – it echoes the "Our Father." Both reveal a special relationship Jesus has with the Father. The Lord’s Prayer "hallows" God’s name; in John Jesus prays, "I glorify you on earth." The Lord’s Prayer has "thy kingdom come"– in John, Jesus prays, "Glorify your son." In the Lord’s Prayer, "give us this day our daily bread" – in John, Jesus is the "bread of life." [There are more parallels between the Lord’s Prayer and John’s High Priestly Prayer – but that would take us beyond today’s passage. For more see John Marsh’s, "The Gospel of St. John." Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1977.]

To Jesus’ contemporaries his life was a failure and viciously cut short. He would have known at this point that people did not accept his message. Yet, there is no distress in Jesus’ prayer. He is finishing the work God gave him to do and therefore he has given glory to God. People often die with the regret that they didn’t finish in life what they hoped, "If only I had…" Or, "I wish I hadn’t…." But Jesus has done what God sent him to do and now he is ready to die. "I glorify you on earth by accomplishing the work you gave me to do." On the cross he will say, "It is finished." It is not just that his life is about to end, but that his work is completed.

For the most part we humans do not die so resigned and with such a sense of accomplishment. Death is often untimely, sudden, or comes slowly with pain. We do not know how much time we will be given and when the time comes there will be much left undone. But rather than measure our lives by the world’s rules of success, Jesus’s prayer that night suggests we can ask ourselves: how well did we accomplish the mission he gave us, to love others the way God has loved us? How did we reveal the face of God to others; the face Jesus has revealed to us? "I revealed your name to those you gave me out of the world."

Everything is about to collapse for Jesus and his disciples. They will go off to the garden (18: 1ff) where Jesus will pray, Judas betray him, his disciples flee and Peter deny knowing him. Still, before his death, Jesus’ prayer reveals trust in God and, incredibly, trust in his disciples. They are a weak and discouraging group, but Jesus’ prayer reveals they truly belong to the Father.

He trusts that his work will continue. But on their own, these disciples are not going to be able to further Jesus’ work in the world. But they will not be on their own. Nor are we. Next week we celebrate Pentecost, the fulfillment of Jesus’ promised gift to us, the Spirit. The fulfillment of that promise will make all the difference for us, charged with living and spreading the message of Jesus by our words and actions.

The reading from Acts shows the disciples, Mary and other women gathered in the upper room after Jesus’ ascension. They are praying together and one presumes, waiting for Jesus to fulfill his promise to send them the Spirit. The reading shows signs of the budding vitality of the community. Together they returned to Jerusalem and gathered in the upper room, "These devoted themselves with one accord to prayer…."

The letter from Peter gives witness to experiences the early church had after they received the Spirit. They seem to be undergoing severe testing. Peter encourages believers to rejoice that they share in the sufferings of Christ and he reassures them that though they are insulted for their beliefs they are blessed by God. How is that possible: to rejoice even when suffering; to be blessed even though insulted? It is possible because of the gift Jesus gives them: the same Spirit he had which enabled him to give glory to God, not only in his life, but in his suffering and death as well.

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

www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052817-seventh-sunday-easter.cfm

QUOTABLE

The message of the Bible is...that into the confusion of man’s [sic] world, with its divisions and hatred, has come a message of transforming power and those who believe it will experience in themselves the love that makes for reconciliation and peace on earth.

Thomas Merton, "Opening the Bible," 1981

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

That I may gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate his temple.

Psalm 27: 4

This scripture passage appears to bear a very vertical view between the psalmist and God. However, we have been taught that Jesus, the revelation of God, can be found in the broken, the hungry, and the imprisoned. To contemplate Jesus means to encounter him in the poor. To encounter Jesus, we are called to accompany others who may have lives very different from ours. In other words, to gaze on the loveliness of the Lord is a much more horizontal view.

Pope Francis speaks of the importance of encountering the poor: "We cannot become starched Christians, those over-educated Christians who speak of theological matters as they calmly sip their tea. No! We must become courageous Christians and go in search of the people who are the very flesh of Christ, those who are the flesh of Christ!" (5/18/13)

At another time, Pope Francis states that Jesus "launches the fundamental message of the Gospel which is to serve others out of love for God" (8/28/16). We have only to look out to find Jesus.

According to 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?" means, that in order to contemplate the Lord’s temple requires us to take an inward action. As Pope Francis states, "Today, Jesus gives voice to those who are voiceless, and to each one of us he addresses an urgent appeal to open our hearts and to make our own the sufferings and anxieties of the poor, the hungry, the marginalized, the refugees, those who are defeated by life, those who are rejected by society and by the arrogance of the strong" (8/28/16). Our heart/temple doors must be wide open.

As we close out May, the month of mothers, let us pray with Pope Francis, his words:

Lord you left your Mother in our midst that she might accompany us. May she take care of us and protect us on our journey, in our hearts, in our faith. May she make us disciples like herself, missionaries like herself. May she teach us to go out onto the streets.

May she teach us to step outside ourselves. . .

May she, by her meekness, by her peace, show us the way. (7/25/13, Argentina)

----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 prayed]

And now I am no longer in the world,

but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.

Reflection:

On our own we disciples are not going to be able to further Jesus’ work in the world. But we are not be on our own. Next week we celebrate Pentecost, Jesus’ promised gift to us of the Spirit. The fulfillment of that promise will make all the difference for us, charged and sent by Jesus to spread the gospel by our words and actions.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Where in my life do I need a renewal by the Holy Spirit?
  • To prepare for Pentecost shall I begin praying for that renewal?

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:

  • Guy T. Le Grande #0238344 (On death row since 4/26/96)
  • Jamie L. Smith #0376917 (5/10/96)
  • Robbie D. Locklear #0246186 (5/14/96)

----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://www.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. "Homilias 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 "Homilias 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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