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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

6th SUNDAY -C- February 17, 2019

Jeremiah 17: 5-8; Psalm 1; I Cor. 15: 12, 16-20; Luke 6: 17, 20-26

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

There are Beatitudes for us today in the Jeremiah, Psalm and Luke readings. They declare blessed those whose lives are focused on God and who live dependent and trusting in God. Jeremiah puts it succinctly: if we rely solely on our human strengths and self-sufficiency, we will only have misery. We will be, the prophet warns, like plants in the desert struggling to survive. These plants live, but what’s the value of their lives? He advises that there is an immense gap between us mortals, "flesh," and the Lord. Our Psalm today echoes the blessing Jeremiah proclaims: "Blessed are they who hope in the Lord." .

In contrast to the withered plant in the desert, those who acknowledge their limitations and turn in trust to God, will flourish. They will be like, "a tree planted near running water." It is said that Psalm 1 is an introduction and overview to the Book of Psalms; it sums up all of the Psalms. Throughout the Psalms there will be contrasts between those who are righteous and choose God and those who go their own way and perish: "For the Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes."

There is a choice offered us by the prophet Jeremiah and the Psalm response: will we choose drought, or abundant waters – trust in ourselves, or in God?

Today’s and next week’s gospels are from the "Sermon on the Plain," – a parallel to Matthew’s "Sermon on the Mount." While similar, both evangelists are writing for different audiences and tailor their material accordingly. Isn’t that what good preachers are supposed to do? In Luke’s version there is a large multitude of Jesus’ disciples with him and also "a large number of the people." Jesus speaks to his disciples, those who are already following him. How many of the crowd who heard him were attracted to the good news he was sharing? Did they become his disciples too? Did what he said affect their lives; change their notion of God? Has the Sermon had similar affects on us?

After listing the four situations in life that make people blessed, Luke then lists their opposites, declaring the "woes." The word for "blessed" is not a description of happiness as we know it; but is a gift bestowed by God. You don’t earn the blessings; you just need them and God notices. Those who have nothing – no material wealth, or food, who are weeping and hated, because of Jesus, will receive God’s favor.

Luke’s church was experiencing deprivation and suffering because they were followers of Christ. They certainly would not have felt "blessed;" nor would others who looked on their miserable condition, consider them "blessed." Was Luke being "real" in his enumeration of those who are blessed by God? The evidence didn’t seem to show any sign of God’s favor. When we struggle through hard times it doesn’t feel like God is on our side; it may even feel God has turned against us. Can we trust the truth of these Beatitudes; that with God, things are not as they seem? Those the world disfavors and considers no-accounts, are accepted and blessed by God. While those who count themselves fortunate, may not be. Things just aren’t what they seem to our eyes!

"Blessed are you who are poor for the kingdom of God is yours." How can this not be "pie-in-the-sky?" – Was Marx right when said that religion is the opiate of the people? Many people suffer economic setbacks. This was especially true after the recent 35-day government shutdown. Thousands of lower-rank government employees were put in severe financial stress because their families live from paycheck to paycheck. When the paychecks stopped, many were forced to borrow, choose between paying rent or medicines, missed mortgage payments, etc. When Jesus blessed the poor he had people like these in mind – those impoverished and marginalized, who belong to a permanent underclass, unfairly deprived of essentials because of discrimination, poor education, lack of medical essentials, government disarray etc.

Whose side is God on in situations when the rich get their wealth off the backs of the poor? The Beatitudes make it quite clear: God stands with the poor, hungry, weeping and persecuted. Jesus declares blest those who seem out of favor with God. What a reversal of our usual world view. By themselves, there is nothing virtuous about being poor, hungry, weeping and persecuted. Those disciples who heard Jesus announce the Beatitudes on the plain, amid the crowd of people, were being given a vision and a reminder, already articulated by the Hebrew prophets, of God’s love and concern for society’s least. In Jesus, God was fulfilling the promise of those prophets. God came to live among the poor and announce glad tidings to them. Woe to those who oppose God’s rule and Jesus’ message.

Jesus warned the comfortable and content that they ignored the needs of others at their own risk; for when God comes to pass judgment, those with much now will find themselves with nothing. "Woe to you who are filled now…." Even in his "woes" Jesus was implying good news to the comfortable and satisfied. He was calling them to open their eyes and their ears to the world around them and warning them that they didn’t have to undergo severe judgment. There was time to change.

Is it possible that Jesus’ indictment of those who are now rich, filled, laughing and esteemed is also an offer of grace? They are not stuck, there is still time to wake up and accept God’s mercy, turn their lives around and do the good things Jesus taught his disciples gathered around him that day on the plain.

Jesus’ words today may have made us aware of changes we need to make in our lives. We do not have to do that on our own because we gather together in worship strengthened by the word we have heard Jesus address to us his disciples. Soon we will stand with one another at the altar. We, who hear the Beatitudes today and receive the meal God has prepared for us, are given the grace to become

Beatitude people, easily recognized by the world as disciples of Jesus.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021719.cfm

QUOTABLE

Walk around feeling

like a leaf. Know

you could tumble

any second.

Then...decide

what to do with your Time

(Anon)

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

For the Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes.

Psalm 1:6

As I am writing this column, Martin Luther King Jr. Day has just concluded and I am addressing the month of February in which the nation observes National Black History Month. I have always loved history and so I found the following information on the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) website very interesting. I hope that you will take a little time this month to learn a little more about God’s children that come from African descent. As MLK Jr. states, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

"When Carter G. Woodson established Negro History week in 1926, he realized the importance of providing a theme to focus the attention of the public.. . .For those interested in the study of identity and ideology, an exploration of ASALH’s Black History themes is itself instructive. Over the years, the themes reflect changes in how people of African descent in the United States have viewed themselves, the influence of social movements on racial ideologies, and the aspirations of the black community."

"ASALH’s 2019 theme ‘Black Migrations’ emphasizes the movement of people of African descent to new destinations and subsequently to new social realities. While inclusive of earlier centuries, this theme focuses especially on the twentieth century through today. Beginning in the early decades of the twentieth century, African American migration patterns included relocation from southern farms to southern cities; from the South to the Northeast, Midwest, and West; from the Caribbean to US cities as well as to migrant labor farms; and the emigration of noted African Americans to Africa and to European cities, such as Paris and London, after the end of World War I and World War II. Such migrations resulted in a more diverse and stratified interracial and intra-racial urban population amid a changing social milieu." https://asalh.org/asalhs-2019-theme-black-migrations/

We are a nation made up of people on the move. Even Native Americans once crossed over from Asia by way of Alaska. We need to recognize the strength that this fact brings us instead of letting overt racism and systemic racism tear us apart. We need to live the biblical way of the just and seek equity for all.

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC

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, "Blessed are you who are poor,

For the kingdom of God is yours."

Reflection:

As Jesus announced, the blessings of the kingdom are already present to his disciples – but not fully. Thus, his Beatitudes stir up hope and form our way of thinking and acting as we wait for the fullness of God’s Reign. We persevere in our struggles to live as members of God’s community and we pay special attention to those in need, those Jesus has called " blessed."

So we ask ourselves:

  • What norms do I use to measure "success" in life?
  • How would those norms measure up to the Beatitudes? Or, are they among the "woes" Jesus rejects?

ONE GOOD BOOK FOR THE PREACHER

THE TREASURE OF GUADALUPE, edited by Virgilio Elizondo, Allan Gigueroa Deck and Timothy Matovina. (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, Inc. 2006.) Paper, 134 pages. ISBN 978-0-7425-4857-2.

Noted preachers, pastoral leaders and thinkers share with us homilies and meditations on the rich Guadalupan tradition. People from various ethnic backgrounds will find these reflections helpful. They are not meant for direct use, but as resources to inspire, preachers, catechists, teachers and others in a tradition that has nourished so many of our Mexican brothers and sisters who have brought their faith into our midst. The treasure that awaits us in this book is to discover an authentic Christian faith that is rooted in the soil of the Americas.

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"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:

  • Johnny R. Daughty #0099090 (On death row since 10/4/93)
  • George C. Buckner #0054499 (10/8/93)
  • Martin A. Richardson #0343075 (11/22/93)

----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/

Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:  http://www.pfadp.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://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.

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/donations.htm - 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.

 

St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626


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