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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

15th SUNDAY -C- July 14, 2019

Deuteronomy 30: 10-14; Ps. 69; Colossians 1: 15-20;
Luke 10: 25-37

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

Jesus is a wonderful storyteller. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a classic story that has drama and unforgettable characters. It’s crafted by a master storyteller. One of its literary features of the parable is the repetition of the phrase that describes the priest and the Levite. Luke says that they not only did not stop to help the man, but that they "passed by on the opposite side." Both did the same thing: "They passed by on the opposite side."

People hearing this story would have made excuses for them. The victim was left half dead we are told. If they touched the man and he were dead they would have become ritually unclean and not allowed to officiate, or participate in Temple worship, which their positions required. Others will defend the two religious men saying they were alone on a notoriously dangerous road. This could have been a set up, a trap for a solitary traveler.

Jesus does not condemn the two who passed by. But he refocuses our attention and tells about one person, a foreigner, who crossed over to the other side and took a chance to help the victim. What is it that makes people do such things? Is it only people of extraordinary courage who are willing to risk everything, even their own lives to help another?

A while back I read a story in Time magazine entitled, "A Conspiracy of Goodness." Johtje and Art Vos were a Dutch couple who risked their lives during the Holocaust to hide Jews from the Nazis. They were part of a group called "Rescuers" that saved nearly 500,000 lives. When Johtje and Art were asked what made them take such risks they and others responded in a similar way, a way that sounded quite ordinary, "We didn’t think about it." One of the Rescuers put it this way, "You started off storing a suitcase for a friend and before you knew it, you are in over your head. We did what any human being would do." Well, not any human being!

A study was done of these "Rescuers." It was found that they came from all classes of people, educated and uneducated, rich and poor, believers and even atheists. They were individualists. While people follow the demands of society and their peers, these people weren’t constrained by what others expected them to do. Family, friends and society can exert pressures that restrain good deeds. The Samaritan did not say to himself, "Well that man is a Jew. My people would never help a Jew."

These "Rescuers" had a history of good deeds. They visited people in hospitals, collected books for poor students, cared for stray animals. Little good deeds were like training for the big deeds that came their way. Many of the "Rescuers" had a sense of universalism; they did not see Jews as "Jews" first, but as human beings.

The Samaritan did not see a Jew by the side of the road, he saw an injured person. Draw your own parallels to our day.

The article was entitled a "Conspiracy of Goodness." Conspiracy is not always a threatening notion, it means "to breathe with."

That is who we are as a church; we are a Conspiracy of Goodness. We breathe together the same breath of God’s Spirit to do good, regardless of who peoples’ origins, marital status, race, sexual orientation, or religion. The Spirit breathes in us to make the instinct to help others a natural response; as natural as breathing in and breathing out.

Note in the parable that the Samaritan carried with him the "healing ointments" of the day; wine for cleansing, oil to promote healing. The parable suggests to us that with God’s Spirit we have the necessary elements for healing and helping. We draw on our natural skills, gifts from God and take the necessary steps to cross the road to the side of the needy and dress their wounds.

We frequently get into talks on religion – all well and good. But the parable is calling for response. The focus of the parable isn’t even on loving God; but on loving neighbor. Fred Craddock, who was a noted scripture scholar and homiletician points out that to ask, "Who is my neighbor?" is to ask for definition of the object and extent of love. Jesus’ question to the scholar of the law asks, "Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?" This question shifts the attention to the kind of person one is to be, rather than about who are, or are not, one’s neighbor.

Jesus’ question at the end of the passage is outside the parable, it is his corrective to an improper question. We are a people of another kingdom, we live by another standard. We are to be people who act in love, love that has not drawn boundaries to include some and exclude others, love that expects no "return on the dollar." The Law of God (referenced in the first reading) is no mere code, yet we believers are always tempted to legalism. So we have all these legal questions, for example, "Does this Mass count for my Sunday obligation?" The first reading suggests God’s Law requires true interiorization, not merely strict conformity to statutes.

I like the symbols in the parable, especially that the Samaritan "poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them." I am struck that he had these healing elements with him as he traveled. We don’t always get the chance to go get the supplies, skills, education, or even another person, to help. We travel with what we need, thanks to the Holy Spirit we are already equipped for healing. We draw upon the Spirit that was given us at Baptism and we trust its presence as we attend to the wounded.

Something in the Samaritan was moved, like those "Rescuers" in the magazine article were. He did not go through a long debate about the merits of this wounded person. Unlike the Samaritan, these days our nation seems less "moved with pity." Even some Christians have turned their backs upon the wounded, abandoned and sick at our borders. Do we pass hard judgment on them or, like the Samaritan, do we have compassion and respond to the wounded by the side of the road?

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/071419.cfm

QUOTABLE


"We need the Spirit’s prompting, lest we be paralyzed by fear and excessive caution, lest we grow used to keeping within safe bounds."

—Pope Francis in, "Rejoice and Be Glad: Gaudete et EXsultate," #133
 

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. . .No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out."

--Deuteronomy 30:11,14

We know what the command is that Moses refers to in the readings today because the gospel, in Jesus own words, explains it. Moses states that it is "already in your mouths" so that you might readily talk about it and "in your hearts" that you might easily remember it. Jesus declares the command to be the great law of love. For anyone still wondering, both Moses and Jesus are talking about exercising compassion. Compassion is the core teaching of all the world’s spiritual traditions.

Mechthild of Magdeburg, who was a Beguine and a medieval German mystic and poet, declares, "If you love Jesus Christ more than you fear human judgment, then you will not only speak of compassion, but act with it. Compassion means seeing your friend and your enemy in equal need, and helping both equally. It demands that you seek and find the stranger, the broken, the prisoner, and comfort him and offer him your help. Herein lies the holy compassion of God that causes the devil much distress." How many of us could extend equal help to both friend and enemy? Yet, that is what compassion requires.

I am on the steering committee for Campaign Nonviolence NC. We are now in our fifth year of trying to promote nonviolence as a way of life. A key part of nonviolence is compassion toward both friend and enemy. This year we have chosen to address the violence of racism and the necessity of dismantling today’s Jim Crow nonviolently. As part of this year’s program, you are invited to attend a gathering to view the New York Film Festival’s award winning documentary: 13th this coming Tuesday, July 16, at 6:30PM. This one hour forty minute film takes an unflinching and well researched look at the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and tracks the creation of America’s subsequently racially unjust system of incarceration in our prison system while also revealing the nation’s history of racial inequality. This event’s location is at Highland United Methodist Church, 1601 Ridge Road in Raleigh. We will have finger foods and popcorn for munching during the movie and a round of dialogue following.

Please come and bring your compassion.

---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, "But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him

was moved with compassion at the sight."

Reflection:

As a church we are a "Conspiracy of Goodness." We "breathe together" the breath of God’s Spirit to do good, regardless of peoples’ origins, marital status, race, sexual orientation, or religion. The Spirit breathes in us trying to make the instinct to help others a natural response; as natural as breathing in and breathing out.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Who are the "different people" that need my help and I have been avoiding?
  • How can I bridge the gap between them and me?

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:

  • Patrick Steen #0388640 (On death row since 8/28/98)
  • Robert Brewington #0584095 (9/3/98)
  • Rodney Taylor #0472274 (10/23/98)

----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:  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: 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 - 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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