dominated the front page of the daily New York Times recently
(Tuesday, February 26, 2019). It was an arresting photo of a young
boy, about five or six years old. He was wearing a flimsy pair of
black shorts and was dripping wet. He looked like he was shivering.
His big black eyes stared right at the camera.
I looked at the photo and wondered if he had just emerged from
the Rio Grande River, after having crossed the southern border. Or,
was he one of those refugees who survived his boat’s sinking in the
Mediterranean after fleeing Syria? I have seen so many images of
families fleeing violence in their homeland and children separated
from their parents. So, I thought, " One more poor and desperate
child – how many more will there be?"
I turned to the story within the paper and found that I had been
looking at a most-appropriate Lenten image. The boy had just emerged
from bathing in the Ganges River. He was not Christian, he was
Hindu, It seems the two faiths merge in their beliefs and have
similar practices. The picture was from Prayagraj, India. Other
pictures showed thousands of Hindu faithful in the same river. For
centuries people have come to this place to wash away their sins.
The newspaper called it, "The world’s largest religious gathering."
How large? Well, many times more than can fit in Vatican Square.
Every six years, for several months, hundreds of millions of
worshipers, come for the ritual cleansing in the Ganges!
Do you feel a kinship to these penitents? After all, it is Lent
and we are not the only people who put time aside for penance,
prayers and ritual cleansing. We don’t go to bathe in the Ganges,
but we travel through Lent, preparing for the Easter mysteries when
we receive forgiveness and cleansing, as we are sprinkled with newly
blessed Easter waters. We, those Hindu devotees and members of the
other world religions, share a common human experience. We are
reminded of the limits and shortcomings of what our world can
provide for us.
All is not well with the world; nor with us. We are sinners who
have turned, in small or large ways, from the God whom Genesis
reminds us, has made a covenant with our ancestors and has renewed
that covenant with us by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus
Christ. On Ash Wednesday those dry ashes reminded us how we have
turned away from God and invested ourselves in the world and its
passing ways. Relying on ourselves is not enough and will eventually
disappoint us. It’s hard to admit this. We spend most of our time
avoiding clear-eyed introspection of our lives. And so, "Ashes to
ashes and dust to dust."
That Times article ended on a pessimistic, some would say
realistic, note. It quoted several Hindu priests who criticized the
commercialism that has crept into the gathering over the years. For
example, plush accommodations were recently constructed for the
wealthy pilgrims who could afford to stay for $500 a night! The
upcoming elections in India have also split the nation, including
those penitent bathers at the Ganges, into feuding parties. Sound
Is Lent going to be like that for us? Our Ash Wednesday probably
began with resolutions to: pray more, respond to the needs of our
neighbor, be more patient at home, read an uplifting book, attend
daily mass or, be more attentive at our Sunday worship. It is only
the second week of Lent but have we already slipped in our
resolutions and gone back to the "same old, same old?" We are not
Hindus who can go to the Ganges to cleanse ourselves from broken
resolutions, human weaknesses and sin. But, there is water available
for us in the font each time we enter the church. We can "wash" in
those waters, as we sign ourselves with the cross and prepare to be
cleansed again by the sacred mysteries we are about to celebrate
In our second reading Paul uses very graphic language to describe
our human condition. "Their God is their stomach; their glory is in
their ‘shame.’ Their minds are occupied with earthly things." He was
speaking of those who emphasized external religious practices like
dietary rules, but were fixed on things of the world. They could now
look beyond this world to receive a share in the very life and grace
of God through Jesus Christ.
Lent is a wake up call, not to settle for what is flimsy and
passing, but to realize, as Paul puts it, "our citizenship is in
heaven." Lent reminds us that we have expected too little of
ourselves and of our God. Abraham and Sarah did not have a son and
without a legitimate heir, their inheritance would pass to a slave
woman. But God promised Abraham that they would have many children.
Abraham had to surrender to God in faith and after a deep terrifying
darkness, he accepted God’s promise to do for him, what he could do
The scriptures today invite us to look beyond our daily lives and
routines to a deeper union with the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s an
invitation to transformation and transfiguration from what is merely
earthly and passing to the promise God has made us, in Christ – that
we are already "citizens of heaven."
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
Lord, the sound of my call; have pity on me, and answer me."
If we take a moment to contemplate St. Teresa of Avila’s words,
"Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but
yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this
world," then we know that responding to the needs of the poor is our
task to do.
I hope by now that you have picked up your CRS Rice Bowl and
calendar and have begun to use some of the suggestions offered to
shape your spiritual practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving
this Lent. Reflect on the stories, prepare some of the meatless
meals, and put the money you saved by not buying meat – an average
of $3 per person per meal – into your CRS Rice Bowl to feed our
brothers and sisters in need around the world. You will find that
drawing closer to the poor draws you closer to God and enables you
to be a sign of hope for others.
CRS Rice Bowl is the Lenten program of Catholic Relief Services,
the official relief and development agency of the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops. CRS Rice Bowl shares stories of hope
from CRS’ work around the world. Each story is accompanied by a
simple, meatless recipe that families are encouraged to prepare on
Fridays during Lent. Lenten alms donated through CRS Rice Bowl
support the work of CRS in roughly 45 different countries each year.
25% of all donations to CRS Rice Bowl stay in the local diocese,
supporting hunger and poverty alleviation efforts. Since its
inception in 1975, CRS Rice Bowl has raised nearly $300 million.
Be sure to begin your journey by viewing the CRS Lenten digital
), where the words of Jesus’ parable on the Good Samaritan are
juxtaposed with the words of Pope Francis, thereby connecting an
ancient teaching with a present reality. Because we are all called
to be Good Samaritans, especially today, as so many of our brothers
and sisters are forced from their homes, fleeing violence, economic
hardship, persecution and climate injustice.
All the reflections, videos, and recipes can be found at:
and/or their app at:
Both are available in English or Spanish. Also, to donate by check,
make check payable to HNOJ Cathedral for CRS Rice Bowl and put in
collection basket at Masses.
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 Genesis reading:
put his faith in the Lord,
credited it to him as an act of righteousness
Despite doubts about our worthiness we are urged, like Abraham,
to make an "act of righteousness," to put our trust in God’s love
and care for us. And, like Abraham, trust God will never abandon us.
So we ask ourselves:
- What is emerging this Lent that makes me feel separated from
- Can I, like Abraham, make an "act of righteousness" and
trust in God’s love for me?
ONE GOOD BOOK FOR THE
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.
---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries, Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
POSTCARDS TO DEATH
to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an
inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form
it is carried out."
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:
- Randy Atkins #0012311 (On death row since 12/8/93)
- Frank Chambers #0071799 (3/10/94)
- William Barns #0020590 (3/10/94)
----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
is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday
worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like
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Boll, OP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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 home page:
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
- 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
you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the
Great Priory of Texas
Vince Hagan Drive
First Impressions Archive
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