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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

7th SUNDAY OF EASTER -C- June 2, 2019

Acts 7: 55-60; Psalm 97; Revelation 22: 12-14, 16-17; John 17: 20-26

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

 


Click Here if your Diocese celebrates the Ascension on this Sunday.


In our liturgical calendar we are in an "in-between-time" – between the feast of the Ascension and next Sunday celebration of Pentecost. Our first reading from Acts tells of the death of the first martyr Stephen. Jesus’ powerful witness and support for his disciples is now gone. The early church was in an "in-between-time." They seem to be without their Lord – and they were undergoing trials and persecutions which tested their faith.

But, though he has ascended to his Father, there are strong clues that Jesus is still in the midst of his community. Does the description of Stephen’s death sound familiar? The Acts account is a parallel narrative to Jesus’ trial and passion. Notice the similarities. As with Jesus, there are false witnesses claiming Stephen announced the destruction of the Temple. Like Jesus, he was brought before the Sanhedrin for trial and, like Jesus, he proclaimed the coming of the Son of Man. Both Jesus and Stephen provoked the anger of their accusers and were put to death outside the city. Stephen’s last words express forgiveness for his executioners – just as Jesus had.

Stephen’s death confirms Jesus’ promise that he would not leave his disciples on their own. Stephen, and the early church, give witness that the Spirit Jesus breathed on his disciples after his resurrection, is very much with them. How do we know this? By the signs of Jesus’ life and death among his followers.

A note on Stephen’s vision of the Son of Man: Christ is standing at the Father’s right side. He is not sitting, as he is usually described in that place. For example, our Profession of Faith: "He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father." Jesus’ standing position shows his readiness to act and intercede on our behalf as we, like Stephen, speak and witness in his name. His standing also signifies his readiness to return – another of his Last Supper promises.

Jesus makes a similar assurance in our Revelation reading. "Behold I am coming soon." During times of trial Christians want to ask, "How soon?" We do our best to stand firm when our faith is tested. Our ancestors in faith gave us examples that we, like them, will meet opposition and suffer persecution. Stephen spoke the truth and paid the price. What kind of "stoning" do we modern Christians face? It might be a faith-testing sickness, or an outright persecution, as many Christians suffer in parts of the world today.

Living in the "in-between-time," as we wait for Christ’s return, can test us, cause us to feel isolated and on our own. Revelation’s image of the standing Son of Man is a reassurance Christ has not left us. We place our faith in the words he spoke to his disciples around the table the night before he died, "I will not leave you orphans, I will come back to you" (Jn 14:18). We also cling to the promise we hear today, "Behold, I am coming soon." As we celebrate the Eucharist today we are responding to Revelations’ invitation, "Let the one who thirsts come forward."

Do you believe in the power of prayer? I know we don’t always get what we pray for and we have to deal with that mystery. Still, there are times we pray for someone and they are helped by our prayer. When we, or someone we love, is in personal need, even if we don’t receive immediate relief, the very fact that someone is praying for us brings comfort and assurance. Their prayer gives us access to a community of concerned believers and that can help us through times of trial, discouragement, temptation and even despair. Prayer can also help us keep focused on our need and dependence on God. When we pray we are not only addressing God, we are also reminding ourselves that, for what really matters in life, we need God.

In today’s gospel we are invited into Jesus’ prayer as he speaks to his Father – not for himself, but for us. He is praying for those who have come to believe in him through the word his first disciples passed on. It is one thing to listen in on a conversation at a table next to us in a restaurant. It is quite another to be invited to listen in on Jesus at prayer – especially since we are the ones he is talking to his Father about.

When one of our Dominican friars or sisters is leaving for a mission assignment, or just to go to preach, we bid our farewells and frequently say a blessing prayer for them. Sometimes we will chant the "Dominican Blessing" over them. (It is also said over those completing a Dominican-sponsored retreat who are about to return to their regular lives.) "May God, Creator, bless you. May God, Redeemer, heal you and may God the Holy Spirit fill you with peace."

Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples. Biblical goodbyes sometimes end in a blessing. Recall Jesus’ farewell speech in Luke (24:14-38). John follows the biblical pattern: a farewell speech ending in a prayer. Both Luke and John frequently describe Jesus in prayer. Jesus knows that his disciples will be stressed after he leaves them and so he prays that the community will hold together and continue to be his witnesses despite great difficulties.

The word of God is a living, present-tense word. So, Jesus’ prayer is alive; he is praying for us who, like his disciples, are gathered with him and one another around the table. He prays for our unity, that we hold together; not only when the church faces persecution, but also during these painful times, as one after another piece of breaking news reveals still more accounts of clergy abuse and coverups. We need his prayer for unity more than ever, as more and more leave our church because of the impact the scandal has had on them. A woman said recently, "I have been a Catholic all my life, but I have had it with the church!"

We will voice our prayers for healing, unity for our church and for the victims of abuse. As it is with prayer, we express our dependence on God and our trust that the "standing" Jesus of Revelation will come quickly to help us. At times it feels like we are in a perpetual Advent, waithing time and that our prayer is a constant, "Come Lord Jesus." That’s a brief prayer, easily said throughout the day, especially when we need the standing Jesus to come and help us and our worshiping community.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060219-7thday.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

Twelve Reasons for a Moratorium on Capital Punishment

1. Innocent people are sometimes sentenced to death. More than 120 people have been exonerated and released from our nations' death rows since 1973.

2. Death penalty states do not have lower homicide rates than states without capital punishment.

3. Death rows in the U.S. are disproportionately comprised of the poor and people of color.

4. Racism pervades the capital punishment process. Killers of whites are several times more likely to receive a death sentence than killers of people of color.

5. Many on death row are convicted based on the unreliable testimony of Jailhouse informants.

6. Many on death row were represented by lawyers who lacked the skills or resources to mount a strong defense.

7. Many of those executed or now on death row are seriously mentally ill.

8. Within death penalty states, there are rarely uniform standards to determine who is charged with capital murder. Rural communities are several times more likely to seek and obtain death sentences, even when the facts of the cases are very similar.

9. "Expert" witnesses are frequently wrong in their assessments of key evidence.

10. Many jurors cannot understand the complex instructions they need to follow in order to arrive at decisions of guilt, life, or death.

11. Prosecutors sometimes argue for sentences of death in order to "honor the victims." Is the purpose of capital punishment to exact revenge on behalf of victims' families?

12. The enormous amount of resources used to secure death sentences and maintain them through the extensive appeals process could be better spent on services for victims' families.

-----"The Moratorium Campaign"

586 Harding Boulevard Baton Rouge, LA 70807 225-223-4919 info@moratoriumcampaian.org

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 Acts reading:

Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven

and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right had of God....

Reflection:

Would any of us consider ourselves spokespersons for our faith? Stephen got in trouble for speaking about the things he believed. He was an EVANGELIST. There... a word we Catholics don’t often use! We almost never hear it uttered in main line churches. Yet, it is not just the mission of some paid clergy and full-time lay ministers in our parish. It is our task, our vocational call since our baptism

So we ask ourselves:

  • Do I avoid conversations that might require me to speak of my faith?
  • When was the last time I shared my faith – in a public or private way?

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:

  • Lawrence Peterson #0320825 (On death row since 12/12/96)
  • Henry L. Wallace #0422350 (1/29/970)
  • Terrence Taylor #0539901 (2/18/97)

----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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