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4th SUNDAY -C- February 3, 2019

Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; Ps 71; 1 Corinthians 12: 31- 3:13; Luke 4: 21-30

By: Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

Welcome to the latest email recipients of "First Impressions," – the Raleigh Dominican Laity and the women retreatants from Immaculate Conception parish in Durham North Carolina.

This Sunday and next we will be hearing about the vocational calling of two prophets – Jeremiah today and Isaiah next Sunday. The gospel today shows the parallel between Jesus’ mission and that of his prophetic predecessors, as he tells the synagogue congregation who heard and rejected him, "Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in their own native place."

In the Hebrew Scriptures there are accounts of the calls of Moses (Ex 3:1-4), Isaiah (6:1-13), Ezekiel (1-3), and others ordained by God for special missions. The calls are personal and involve encounters with God. Those who receive the call are commissioned to speak for God to the recalcitrant people. Most of those called initially resist their vocation, often with a protest of unworthiness. God has to reassure them that for their difficult task, God will be with them.

I would have preferred today’s reading include Jeremiah’s initial resistance: "‘Ah, Lord God,’ I said, ‘I know not how to speak; I am too young.’" Perhaps it wasn’t just his youth and inexperience that gave Jeremiah hesitation when God called him, but his knowledge of what happens to God’s prophets – they are rejected and even killed by the very people to whom they are sent.

God chose Jeremiah to be a prophet while he was still in the womb. Who’s in charge here? God is! As God is in all prophetic calls. It is clear why this passage was chosen today. It matches Jesus’ description of his prophetic mission, which is the second half of his sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth. Jeremiah’s mission was to be a "prophet to the nations." Jesus outraged his listeners because he described his mission as reaching out beyond his Jewish community to non-Jews as well – "the nations."

Jeremiah could easily have deduced his task was going to be difficult and that he would meet opposition. Why else would God have to promise to make him, "a fortified city," "a pillar of iron," "a wall of brass"? What’s unique in Jeremiah’s call was it came, not through a heavenly vision, but through an encounter with God’s word. "The word of the Lord came to me saying…."

Let’s not put the biblical prophets aside, or on a pedestal, claiming that they were unique, or rare cases. At our baptism we were all anointed by the Spirit to be "priest, prophet, and royalty." The prophet speaks the truth to power; is the voice of the voiceless and stands up against injustice – not only in society, but in the church as well.

Jeremiah heard his call through God’s word. And he heard more. Since he would face opposition, God promised to be with him and make him, "a pillar of iron, a wall of brass." The prophetic task is not an easy one, as Jesus reminds us today, "No prophet is accepted in their own native place." Each of us is to discern how God might be calling us to be a voice for God in our world.

Jeremiah offers us guidance and encouragement. Like him our vocation is first to listen to God’s word. It’s the word proclaimed to us each time we gather in worship. That same word also speaks to us during times of personal reflection, as well as periods of listening – not only to the Scriptures, but to God speaking to us in our world and the world of nature. What is God saying to you during these listening times? Do you hear a call? How shall you respond? Draw courage from what Jeremiah says to us today: God will be with us as our strength and ally.

It’s clear from today’s readings that, while we might be friends of God, that won’t automatically make us friends of our contemporaries. It seems those whose lives show an intimate relationship with God also stir up envy and hostility from others. Jesus is a good example of the ire a prophet can cause among their relatives and neighbors.

Today’s gospel is the second part of the sermon in the synagogue – we heard the first part last Sunday. As today’s passage suggests Jesus thinks his neighbors expect a demonstration of the famed works he performed in Capernaum and other Jewish cities. Their familiarity can blind them to Jesus’ true powers and presence among them. Jesus challenges them to look beyond the limits of Israel to the wider world of the Gentiles and reminds them that pagans were open to the prophets: Jonah’s neighbors did not accept him, but the foreigners of Nineveh and the Queen of the South did. The pagan widow of Zarephath welcomed Elijah, but not his own people. So it goes for prophets: familiarity seems to breed resistance.

The people of Nazareth wanted special favors and attention from their native son. Do the people who attend church regularly also expect special consideration from God? Do we think our good status deserves priority before God? Our prophetic voices, Jeremiah and Jesus, remind us today not to box God into any expected ways of acting. Rather, as Peter said to the Gentile Cornelius, "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality rather, in every nation whoever fears God and acts uprightly is acceptable to God." (Feast of the Baptism of the Lord: Acts 10:34-38)

No one people, religion, or nation, possesses God. We need to reflect on and challenge our own tradition and exclusive attitudes towards God. That’s one of the things that prophets do, as unpopular as that can be.

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


"Before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you."
--Jeremiah 1:5

Today’s readings really speak to the life of the prophet. One of the many subjects studied in JustFaith, an intensive program on the biblical sense of compassion and social responsibility as reflected in current life, is that of "prophetic moral vision." As part of our baptism, we are all called to be prophets, as well as priests and royalty. This role of prophet sounds so foreign in many ways. Yet, is it really so strange?

The prophets came to the realization that everyone, even the unseen poor and disadvantaged, is a child of God and worthy of a just life. This is not a position arrived at by the head knowledge of statistics alone but also by the heart knowledge of encounter. In developing relationships with those who live in the margins and finding love there, the prophet’s world is changed. There is no longer an option not to speak truth to power as the prophet becomes the voice for the voiceless that she or he has come to love. This is prophetic moral vision--to see, really see, as God sees, what so often goes unseen. To perceive injustice and not turn a blind eye to it, is to develop a new God-eye vision. And, guess what? This is the call for all baptized Christians. Furthermore, we are to use our God-given talents to address the injustice we see, with love in our hearts for all.

The Vatican II document on the laity ("Apostolicam actuositatem") is very specific that Christian social action, in order to renew the temporal order, is preeminent for the laity. "Lay people ought themselves to take on as their distinctive task this renewal of the temporal order. Guided by the light of the Gospel and the mind of the church, prompted by Christian love, they should act directly in this domain and in their own way. As citizens among citizens they must bring to their cooperation with others their own special competence, and act on their own responsibility; everywhere and always they have to seek the justice of the kingdom of God"(7). This is the role of the prophet defined for lay Catholics in the 20th/21st century.

In this month of February, choose a work for justice or way to advocate for the ‘other’ in order to share in the work of the prophets leading us to love beyond words. For ministries at HNOJ, go to:

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC


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 Jeremiah reading:

"The word of the Lord came to me...."


Like Jeremiah, our vocation is first to listen to God’s word. It not only speaks to us when we gather at worship. God also speaks to us through the Scriptures, during times of personal prayer, in the events of our lives and through the world of nature.

So we ask ourselves:

  • What is God calling you to do, or speak, during these listening times?
  • How shall you respond? (Draw courage from what Jeremiah says to us today: God will be with us as our strength and ally.)


"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."
---Pope Francis

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:

  • Warren Gregory #0156518 (On death row since 5/18/93)
  • David Lynch #0251740 (5/27/93)
  • Jeffrey Barrett #0021418 (6/1/93)

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

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:

Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:


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If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

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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.

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3. Our webpage: - 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.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.


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