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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

EASTER SUNDAY -C- APRIL 21, 2019

Acts 10: 34a, 37-43; Ps. 118; Colossians 3: 1-4 (or I Cor 5: 6-8); John 20: 1-9

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

We have also posted "First Impressions" reflections for The Triduum:


Picture those two disciples running towards the tomb. Their world had collapsed, their beloved Jesus cruelly killed. Was he just another failed liberator, whom they had hoped would free them from the iron fist of the Romans? Some of his country folk hoped so. Perhaps Peter and John were also among those who placed their hope for revolution on Jesus. Formerly Luke described an event that happened as Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem. Despite a previous prediction of his upcoming passion, the mother of James and John – speaking on behalf of her sons – requested from Jesus seats of honor for them when he "entered his kingdom" (Matthew 20:17-28). See what they were hoping for – power and privilege? As they entered Jerusalem the crowds’ excitement was at a fever pitch. Finally, the Messiah had come to set them free! But the high priest and the Sanhedrin, in collusion with the Romans, quickly crushed their dreams by crucifying Jesus.

Back to the two: Peter and John ("the other disciple?") rushing to the tomb. Mary of Magdala, had gone early in the morning and found it empty. She drew the logical conclusion: "They have taken the Lord from the tomb and we do not know where they put him." A sensible response – what else would have explained the empty tomb? Unless… the totally unexpected and new had taken place. What were the two, closest to Jesus, thinking as they rushed to the tomb. What expressions were on their faces? Fear? Confusion? Shock? Hopeful astonishment? Probably the same expressions that we have on our faces when, after a stressed time, we look back on what had happened and draw on a slim thread of hope for the future.

They were running. Away from what? The old and tired? The used-up and uninspired? Were they running from death’s grip over their lives? Towards what? God? The unimaginable? A whole new beginning? They don’t know quite what is ahead of them, all the evidence isn’t in yet. Sound familiar?

The homiletician, Thomas Long ("Journal for Preachers," Easter 2001) asks: Where are the senior folk in Luke’s account. They were there in the beginning of his gospel: Anna (2:36) and Simeon (2:25), Zechariah and Elizabeth (1:7). The elders played significant roles at the beginning of Luke, but are no where to be found towards the end – at the resurrection. Is Luke speaking symbolically in his omission of the important elders in Jesus’ life? Is it because the elders at the beginning of the gospel represent the former prophetic tradition and its Temple worship? Do they also sum up the best of Israel’s faith in a God who made an unbreakable covenant with the people: that God would not desert them and would fulfill the promise made to a people in need?

Luke’s story began with a living hope among a faithful people. Now we are approaching the end of his narrative – but not the end of the story! A new generation of believers is about to spring up, to find their hope fulfilled in a most unexpected way: Jesus has risen from the dead! God has fulfilled the hopes of Israel in a merciful and surprising way.

I also wonder about the expression on Peter’s face later on. Our first reading tells us of his preaching on the occasion of the baptism of the Gentile Cornelius. While Peter was speaking the Holy Spirit descended on everybody present (Acts 10:44). What a surprise for Peter! He was being sent as a witness to the resurrection to the Gentiles who, like the first disciples, were also gifted with the Holy Spirit.

The gospel has Peter and his companion running to the empty tomb. Acts finds him preaching Jesus’ resurrection from the dead to Gentiles. Can you imagine the surprise on Peter’s face in Cornelius’s home? I would like to be open to God’s surprises in what, on my own, is an impossible situation.

Have we in the past, or even now, boxed God in? Have we imagined God to be just a bigger version of ourselves, with our preferences and agendas? Maybe that’s the past that we, with the two rushing to the tomb, have to leave behind. We do not know what is up ahead for us. Perhaps, like the two, we have fears, confusion – and, hope against hope. At the end of today’s gospel "the other disciple" enters the place where death had formally ruled, but he "sees and believes" – even without the completion of the story. Which is what we are asked to do, in our waiting for God to finish the story of our lives – "see and believe." We wait and we believe Christ is raised from the dead and so shall we be. In the meantime, like Peter, we will go out into the world and see Christ’s risen presence in the most unexpected places: among people so different from us, who also show the signs of the Spirit’s presence in their lives.

Today we celebrate Easter. With God’s grace we have left behind, or are trying to leave behind, our old ways of thinking and acting, our presumptions and our prejudices. Jesus is risen from the dead and our life will never be the same. Sometimes, because of present uncertainties and trials, we tend to look back over our shoulder to formal ways and simpler times. At these times God’s word strengthens us to keep our eyes on the present and look forward to the future, trusting in the promises God holds for us.

The disciples rushing to the tomb could never expect what God had in store for the them. They had to wait for God to take the next step. Later, in the upper room, the risen Christ will appear to the two, huddled with the rest of the disciples,. But not yet. What will happen next is completely beyond their timing and schedule.

Don’t most of the deepest life experiences, come as a surprise: a loved one gives us a warm hug; the word of forgiveness comes completely undeserved; the stranger helps us; we find Christ in the face of the poor; our teacher praises us; a simple family meal with loved ones is a feast. And so on. Where does all that come from? By chance? Not for the person who "sees and believes" the presence of the risen Christ coming in surprising ways.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042119.cfm

 

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.

Psalm 118:17

Resurrection! God’s greatest surprise and what a great hope God gives us. If anyone doubts the idea of resurrection, one has only to look to nature. Pope Francis states, "Clearly, creation itself is a sign of God’s boundless love for us. Consequently, the gifts of nature can themselves lead us to contemplate God" (10/31/16, Sweden). Spend some time with nature today and remember tomorrow, April 22, is Earth Day.

Earth Day Network’s theme for this year is "Protect Our Species." On their website, they write, "Nature’s gifts to our planet are the millions of species that we know and love, and many more that remain to be discovered. Unfortunately, human beings have irrevocably upset the balance of nature and, as a result, the world is facing the greatest rate of extinction since we lost the dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago. But unlike the fate of the dinosaurs, the rapid extinction of species in our world today is the result of human activity. The unprecedented global destruction and rapid reduction of plant and wildlife populations are directly linked to causes driven by human activity: climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, trafficking and poaching, unsustainable agriculture, pollution and pesticides to name a few. The impacts are far reaching. . . The good news is that the rate of extinctions can still be slowed, and many of our declining, threatened and endangered species can still recover if we work together now to build a united global movement of consumers, voters, educators, faith leaders, and scientists to demand immediate action." To learn more what you can do, go to: https://www.earthday.org/campaigns/endangered-species/earthday2019/

In his encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis laments that lack of good stewardship of the earth affects the poor the hardest and he writes, "The protection of God’s gift of creation cannot be separated from a sound human and social ecology. Indeed, "genuine care for our relationship with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and keeping faith with others" (Laudato Si, 70). We are fortunate to have one of our previous rectors, Msgr. Michael Shugrue, facilitate an opening discussion of Laudato Si on May 14th at 7PM in St. Monica building. This introduction will be continued with an in-depth six-week study in the fall of this year. Each session is a stand-alone; please RSVP to socialconcern@hnojnc.org .

Happy Easter, everyone! Let’s do our part to keep the hope of resurrection visible in nature.

---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:

"Then the other disciple [the one whom Jesus loved] also went in,

the one who had arrived at the tomb first,

and he saw and believed."

Reflection:

With the "beloved disciple" we have been loved with a love that death cannot overcome. We have come to believe in the permanence of that love and trust that ,neither sin nor even death, will separate us from it. We believe we are being held fast by that love–we have eternal life now, into death and beyond death.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Have I had any recent concrete experience of Christ’s love for me?
  • How has that affected my outlook in times of loss and disappointment?

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:

  • Wade Cole #0082151 (On death row since 6/14/94)
  • Marcus Robinson #0348505 (8/5/94)
  • Alden Harden #0166056 (8/12/94)

----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: https://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: www.PreacherExchange.org - 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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