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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

4th SUNDAY OF EASTER -C- May 12, 2019

Acts 13: 43-52; Psalm 100; Rev. 7: 9, 14-17; John 10: 27-30

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

PRE-NOTE: Welcome to the latest email recipients of "First Impressions," the worshiping community at St Albert the Great Priory in Irving, Texas.



You know, don’t you, there are Bible readers in prison? There are also scripture study groups led by volunteers from the outside and some by the prisoners themselves. Volunteers and religious communities also donate Bibles for the women and men inmates. These prisoners don’t get extra benefits from the prison administration; nor do they get time reduced from their sentences if they belong to a scripture group. As they live under the harsh prison conditions the word of God provides consolation and hope when none seem possible.

Like some of you I have been a volunteer at the prisons near where I have lived. If I were asked, "Which book of the Bible is the most popular among prisoners?" – I am not sure about the most popular; but a favorite, from my informal survey, is the Book of Revelation. I have to admit I don’t spend a lot of time reading Revelation. I can’t remember the last time I preached from it. So, I challenge myself and you preachers to attempt a preaching from Revelation, at least once, this Easter season. I also encourage you who will be attending Mass these weeks to jump into Revelation – which can be quite a bracing swim.

First, some background. The liturgical readings from Revelation selected for these post-Easter Sundays give a clue about the person writing and the conditions the Christian community was experiencing. The weekly sequence of Revelation readings began with John’s self description:

  • "I John, your brother, who shares with you the distress, the Kingdom and the endurance we have in Jesus, found myself on the island called Patmos because I proclaimed God’s word and gave testimony to Jesus". - (Rev 9:9 – 2nd Sunday of Easter)

The clues are there: the early Christian community was under stress; as it always has been, right up to the present. For what particular reason? John spells it out, "I proclaimed God’s word and gave testimony to Jesus." Faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ have suffered since the very beginning of the church.

The immediate audience for this apocalyptic writing were believers who suffered under the persecution of the emperor Domitian, who claimed the title, "Lord and God." He demanded worship from all people in the Roman empire. Those who chose Domitian as their "Lord and God" survived; those who refused were tortured and killed. It is clear from these Easter season readings why inmates in prison and Christians under stress, would be drawn to Revelation – it was written to stir hope for people suffering.

John, the visionary, describes huge crowds, "from every nation, race, people and tongue" before the throne of God and the Lamb." They have "survived the time of great distress." The lamb image recalls the Passover lamb and God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery (Ex 12) – and also the lamb the prophet Isaiah describes: "like a lamb that is led to the slaughter" (Is. 53:2). Revelation draws from the Hebrew texts to help us interpret Jesus’ saving death. Christians who suffer persecution have been purified by Christ death, the Lamb’s saving blood.

Imagine how those suffering servants who received the John’s message were comforted. Their sufferings were a witness to the world of their faith in Christ. Because of the Lamb’s sacrifice their trials will come to an end and they will celebrate the heavenly feast. Hear the promise: Then "they will not go hungry or thirst anymore… God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Christians suffering for their faith are promised a glorious future. Imagine what an inmate in one of our violent prisons (and most are!) must endure trying to practice their faith. At Easter time converts to the faith were baptized in prison chapels throughout the country. We pray with them and others throughout the world suffering for their beliefs.

In his vision John saw a vast multitude worshiping in the heavenly court, standing before the throne and the Lamb. He’s drawing on God’s promise to Abraham that his and Sarah’s descendants will be as numerous as "the dust of the earth" (Gen 13:16). It is not just a matter of impressive numbers, but the diversity of peoples from every "nation, race, people and tongue." John’s vision challenges our narrow and exclusive notions of those who are favored by God. God’s embrace is wide. What unites those people in the heavenly court has nothing to do with nationality or race, but their common worship of the Lamb.

It has been said Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week. John’s vision may be about the future consolation of those who suffer for their faith, but it is also a challenge to us now. He saw a vast and diverse multitude before the throne. How inclusive and welcoming are our worshiping communities to minorities, newcomers, physically and mentally challenged, the elderly and the young. How inclusive are our liturgical celebrations? As we worship before the altar are there women, people of color, recent immigrants ministering in the sanctuary?

The Lamb "sits at the center of the throne" and, at the same time, shepherds the faithful to "springs of life-giving waters." The dual images of both the Lamb and nurturing shepherd are a comfort to those in the congregation currently suffering and to the prisoner isolated in his/her cell reading this passage.

The Lamb is an image that reminds us of Christ suffering for us. We also note Jesus, the shepherd’s, mandate to care for the least of his brothers and sisters. We do this now, reminded by John, the visionary, that one day we will be a vast and diverse community, before the throne worshiping our saving God together.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050519.cfm

QUOTABLE

"The purpose and spirit of the homily is to inspire and move those who hear it, to enable them to understand in heart and mind what the mysteries of our redemption mean for our lives and how they might call us to repentance and change" (p. 30). "The purpose and spirit of the homily is to inspire and move those who hear it, to enable them to understand in heart and mind what the mysteries of our redemption mean for our lives and how they might call us to repentance and change"


--"Preaching the Mystery of Faith,"

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (p. 30).

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth"

--Acts 13:47

I learned something new the other day. It comes from a book titled, Words of Wisdom (Novalis, 1999) by Fr. Walter Vogels. The book is centered on the Wisdom literature of the Bible that has been called "the neglected side of biblical faith" (16). In liturgy, we more often hear texts from the Law and the Prophets in which salvation-history theology is presented. Wisdom literature does not belong here. Vogels says Wisdom writings could be considered as creation theology.

Vogel writes, "In the creation theology of the Wisdom literature, God has put humanity in charge. Individuals have to use their minds and reflect on their experience to determine for themselves what ought to be done. . .See--judge--act is how the wise function" (18). He states, "In salvation-history, God tells the human being what to do and how to act, since God is in charge" (17). "[In creation theology] God trusts people because God has endowed humanity with minds to think (Genesis 2:19). People may make the wrong decisions. We grow not only by our successes but--sometimes more quickly--by our mistakes" (19). In the scripture above, both theologies are working. God makes us a light and we, in turn, will help create by seeing, judging and acting [instrument].

When God asks us to create a more just world because God is just, we are to use our minds and experiences to make this happen. We do not have to wait for God to tell us what specifically to do, it is already written on our hearts and we have only to see the unjust problem, discern the correct path, and respond.

Last week, I talked about Pope Francis’ distress for the earth that his encyclical Laudato Si’ addresses. Have you read the document? Do you feel the urgency of his call to respond? Our common home is crying out. Vogel writes, "In the Wisdom literature, God does not determine history, people do. . .After God created the universe and other living beings, as his last work on the final day, God created humanity and entrusted the world to them. . .Humankind is now in charge of its world (Genesis 2:15, Psalm 8)" (17).

Msgr. Michael Shugrue will be leading an introductory seminar on Laudato Si’ on Tuesday, May 14 at 7PM. Seating is limited to 30. RSVP to socialconcern@hnojnc.org

---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 Revelation reading:

For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne

will shepherd them

and lead them to springs of life-giving waters

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Reflection:

Imagine what an inmate in one of our violent prisons (and most prisons are!) must endure trying to practice their faith. At Easter time converts to the faith were baptized in prison chapels throughout the country. We pray with them that Christ will shepherd them and that God will wipe away their tears

So we ask ourselves:

  • To whom can I be a comforting and shepherding presence?
  • Is my heart as open to all people as God’s?

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:

  • Keith B. East #0511998 (On death row since 11/8/95)
  • John D. Mc Neil #0275678 (11/10/95)
  • Stacey A. Tyer #0414853 (11/14/95)

----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: 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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