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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

Sixteenth Sunday -C- July 21, 2019

Genesis 18: 1-10; Psalm 15: 2-5;
Colossians 1: 24-28; Luke 10: 38-42

By: Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

Jesus and his disciples continue their journey to Jerusalem. Along the way we meet various groups of people: the crowds, who are drawn by their own desperate needs, or are curious about the spectacle; the "teachers of the law," who are growing more and more hostile; Jesus’ disciples, enthusiastic but confused because of Jesus’ talk of his coming passion. Just prior to today’s Martha and Mary story, in last Sunday’s reading, a lawyer "tested" Jesus asking, "Who is my "neighbor." Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Have Jesus’ followers and antagonists really been listening to what he has been saying? Have we? Today we have a story of someone who shows respect for Jesus and sets an example for us by listening to his word.

The Martha and Mary account is only in Luke and so we would expect to find in it and the surrounding ones, typical Lucan touches. For example, typical of Luke, it features women ministering and listening to Jesus. Also, the story is situated between action and prayer: the preceding story of the Good Samaritan encapsulates the ideal of Christian love and service; while following the Martha and Mary account Jesus gives his teaching about prayer. Are we listening to the accumulated message of these narratives? Does it take prayer to help us discern and follow through on our call to serve others in need? Will prayer help us recognize the needy so that we not "walk on by on the other side," as the religious leaders did to the man who had been set upon by bandits? The stories of the Good Samaritan, Mary and Martha and the teaching on prayer are intimately related – they are of a piece.

What a relief it must have been for Jesus to be "welcomed" by Martha. This is Martha’s only appearance in Luke. Martha’s sister Mary is also in the story and she sits at Jesus’ feet to hear him speak – literally, to "listen to his word." To sit at someone’s feet was to acknowledge his or her authority. Thus, Mary treats Jesus as one sent with an authoritative word, a prophet. Martha is often described as "the heavy" in this story – the one who is fretting and bossy. But initially, at least, she is the hospitable one who welcomes Jesus and tries to do much to follow-up on her hospitality. Since Jesus is journeying to Jerusalem with his disciples, I wonder if they weren’t close by. If so, Martha had much to do and could be overwhelmed with work and so feel abandoned by her sister.

Jesus tells Martha that she is "anxious and worried" about many things. Luke Timothy Johnson (SACRA PAGINA, page 174, cf. below) says that in the original these terms suggest: being "anxious" about the entanglements of life in the world and "making an uproar." Johnson goes on to say that Jesus’ response, "There is a need for only one thing," has been variously interpreted. Some say Jesus is suggesting she could have served fewer dishes, just "one," or a "few." But Johnson thinks Jesus is responding to the virtue of hospitality, that is, the importance of paying attention to the guest. That’s what’s important. Everything else is secondary. So, Mary made the right choice. Mary’s way of being hospitable was not only to welcome the Prophet in their home, but to also listen to his words. She has done what people should do – listen to the one who speaks God’s word – "the one thing necessary."

Which makes us ask ourselves: how do we offer hospitality to the prophets? How open are we to hearing God speaking to us through the "guests" among us? Sometimes these "guests" can be quite disconcerting! A guest comes from the outside world. They bring us a presence and a perspective we don’t ordinarily get because we are immersed in our daily routine, companions and accustomed thought patterns. When someone speaks from a different world view, or another perspective on daily life, our first response is to put up barriers – we feel our borders threatened. It is an act of faith and trust in the Spirit to pay attention to what we hear and see and then to reflect on its application to our lives. We can sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to his words just by being more attentive to those around us; especially those who are from the "outside," who initially act and speak in ways foreign to us. Before we bolt the door of our minds and hearts, we might practice hospitality and openness. Who knows what we might hear? Who knows what riches we might experience? Who knows, we might even be welcoming the Prophet – the one sent by God with a word for us disciples.

Today we begin a three part series from the Letter to the Colossians. Preachers may want to preach at least once from this second reading during the next weeks. This letter presents Christ in cosmic proportions and proposes to us how we can respond to him in faith. Colossians teaches that Christ is our source of redemption and in him we are set free from subservience to other powers and ascetical teachings. Since Christ has set us free, the author of Colossians tells us (we are not sure whether Paul or one of his disciples wrote this letter), we are to give thanks to God for this freedom and use it to serve others.

Today’s selection from Colossians can be confusing to people who hear Paul say that his suffering is "filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body which is the church." How strange... and what is "lacking in the afflictions of Christ?" The author is reminding Christian ministers that we continue to experience what Christ did before his resurrection – we are suffering for the church. Our suffering is "on behalf of his body." Why this suffering? So that we can bring to completion the proclamation of the Word of God.

God’s Word is made "intelligible," or understood by those who have not yet heard it, by the witness of Christ’s ministers. Our willingness to make personal sacrifice for the gospel and, like Paul, to "rejoice in my suffering," becomes a proclamation of the gospel through our lives. He tells us that God’s Word was a "mystery hidden from ages and from generations past." But now it is revealed by the lives of "the holy ones." By their lives and sufferings "the holy ones" reveal Christ himself. Paul is willing to "rejoice" in his sufferings because he believes he is serving Christ’s body. Evil forces in the world still exert their power over us, but those who live in Christ’s sacrificial spirit can overcome evil and extend the work of Christ’s reconciliation to others. How will Christ’s reign be made known throughout the world? By Christ’s followers who are empowered to live by his Spirit.

It has never been easy being a Christian in our world: not in Paul’s time; not in ours. If we are faithful and living Christ’s life, then we must make daily choices that set us against the grain of our contemporaries. Friction and sometimes conflict, are the result – and they are painful. Colossians reminds us that any suffering – material, physical or spiritual – we endure for Christ is not in vain. Rather, it contributes to spreading the Good News of Christ to those around us. Are we all preachers? No, not all of us will climb into the pulpit this weekend to preach. But Paul reminds us that the message of the gospel is proclaimed through each baptized person who faithfully lives out the sacrifices gospel living requires.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072119.cfm

ONE GOOD BOOK FOR THE PREACHER

Luke Timothy Johnson, SACRA PAGINA: THE GOSPEL OF LUKE. Daniel J. Harrington, S.J. Editor. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8146-5805-9

This commentary is part of a series (SACRA PAGINA) of translations and expositions of the New Testament books by Catholic scholars. It is meant for biblical professionals, theological students, clergy and religious educators. Preachers and those who teach bible classes in parishes will find this an excellent and helpful series.

 JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

Who harms not his fellow man, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor. . One who does these things shall never be disturbed.

--Psalm 15:3,5

As I am writing this issue, there are two pressing concerns becoming more urgent each day. One is our treatment of immigrants at our southern border, made more vivid by the shocking drowning of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his almost two-year old daughter, Valeria, and the appalling treatment of children in detention centers. The other concern is our neglect of Mother Earth. Whether or not you believe that the earth is heating up, we, as a society, are complicit in the abuse we have heaped upon her. Pope Francis states, "Everything is connected!" The outward stress signs that we see should cause us to do some inner reflection that we have forgotten our humanity and our instructions to be stewards. In Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth (Golden Sufi, 2016), Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee writes, "Our neglect and dismissal of the sacred within creation are creating an inner wasteland as real as the Tar Sands in Alberta" (300).

Throughout the ancient world, hospitality was the most significant virtue practiced by every culture. In welcoming a stranger, people believed that they may unknowingly be welcoming a divinity in disguise. How would you treat immigrants if you considered them a messenger from God? Have we forgotten the virtue of hospitality as a society? Our unity with each other has been shattered.

Then, there is our treatment of our neighbor, the earth. Vaughan-Lee writes, "Nature is not unfeeling matter; it is full of invisible forces with their own intelligence and deep knowing. We need to re-acknowledge the existence of the spiritual world within creation if we are even to begin the real work of bringing the earth back into balance. . .Instead we are caught within a contemporary consciousness that focuses on the individual self, no longer even aware of our deep bond to the sacred within creation" (296). Our unity with the earth has been shattered.

The interrelationship between the physical world, as seen in our relationships with others and the earth, and the spiritual world of our interior lives must return to wholeness. Monday evening, July 22, Msgr. Michael Shugrue will be presenting in introductory look at Pope Francis’ teaching document, "Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home" at 7PM in the St. Monica building. RSVP at socialconcern@hnojnc.org

Come and begin the work of reconnecting.

---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:

"[Martha] had a sister named Mary

who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak."

Reflection:

Mary’s way of being hospitable was not only to welcome the Prophet in their home, but to also listen to his words. She has done what people should do: welcome and listen to the one who speaks God’s word – "the one thing necessary" – as uncomfortable as prophets can sometimes make us feel.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Where and when are my favorite times to stop and listen to God’s Word?
  • Is my life to busy, with no "listening space?"

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:

  • Jeffery Meyer #0280127 (On death row since 2/4/99)
  • Ted Prevatte #0330166 (2/22/99)
  • Raymond Thibodeaux #0515143 (3/2/99)

----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: https://www.PreacherExchanhe.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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