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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

24th SUNDAY -C- September15, 2019

Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14; Psalm 51; I Timothy 1: 12-17; Luke 15: 1-32

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

Sometimes less is more. Today’s gospel has three significant parables: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost, or Prodigal Son. It is a long reading so I have opted to begin my preparations focusing on the shorter version offered in the Lectionary, which consists of the first two parables (15: 1-10). Perhaps next time I come to this Sunday, I will focus on the Prodigal Son. On the other hand, those who proclaim the gospel today might like to include all three parables for the clear message of divine mercy that emerges.

The setting for Jesus’ telling the parables is dramatic and fraught with tension. Luke tells us that the outsiders were, "all drawing near to listen to Jesus." Not just a few, mind you, but ALL. Those who would normally be excluded from a religious setting and the company of the devout, are universally attracted to Jesus and what he has to tell them about God. Those who object to Jesus’ whole ministry complain, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." If Jesus had just collected food to give to them, that would have been called charity. Then the Pharisees and scribes would have called him a kind and good person. Similarly, charitable deeds can be a way of keeping us detached from those we are trying to serve. But Jesus hosted tax collectors and sinners, up close. They drew near and he did not back away for fear of being contaminated by them. This holy man would even sit and eat with those others considered unholy people!

If we were to describe God, what words would we choose? When the Bible describes God it uses "word pictures." Not a definition, not some abstract theological language that only a few specialists might understand – but word pictures that even a child can get. That’s what Jesus did when he wanted to reveal to us who God is and what God is like. He used word pictures, or stories – we call them parables.

The stories we hear today were told to self-righteous religious people who thought they knew about God and how God acts. They were shocked that Jesus drew to himself "tax collectors," those disloyal Jewish men who collected money for the Roman occupiers – and made a tidy profit for themselves. And "sinners" – people who had bad reputations, well known to their neighbors, were also drawn to him. So, Jesus’ company shocked his critics, who considered themselves God’s favorites. Why, Jesus even ate with these disreputable people! The righteous who saw this were shocked. What kind of good man could Jesus be if he were in such company? Remember what your parents taught you, "You will be known by the company you keep"?

For these disgruntled people Jesus painted two pictures of God – he likens God to a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to go searching for just one until he finds it; and a woman who loses a coin and searches her house thoroughly until she finds it.

Did you notice a word that appears in both stories… a little word you might have missed, but it is packed with meaning? The word is "until." Both the shepherd and the woman search "until" they find what they were looking for. In the shepherd’s case the search seems reckless to us. When Jesus asked which one of his listeners would leave the 99 sheep in the desert to go looking for the lost one, you can presume the response he got would be the one we would give… "No prudent shepherd would do such a foolish thing." And when he asks the question about the one lost coin, any of us who have lost something, which wasn’t extremely precious, or "one-of-a-kind," might have responded to Jesus, "Well, after a good search, I would have other things to do and would just give up looking."

But that is not the word picture Jesus is painting about God – remember the little word, "until"? Jesus is describing no mere glance around the local desert area to see if the lost sheep is visible; no general search around the house to see if the coin is nearby, under the table, or on the floor near the door. No, we’re not talking human logic and ordinary practicalities; we’re talking about a search that doesn’t end "until" the lost object is found. We catch what Jesus is doing. His parable is painting a word picture of God for us, of a God who refuses to give up on us. We are much too valuable to God. God’s ways might seem foolish to us, too risky, too generous to a fault. Jesus’ portrait might not be how we would paint a picture of God; how we think God operates. Can we trust that Jesus has firsthand knowledge of God and knows exactly how God is?

We may not be feeling lost, exactly. Though some of us might. Perhaps we have done some things we feel have cut us off from God. Perhaps we’re not sure how to work our way back. The stories Jesus tells us about God are comforting for us today. They reassure us that God has not turned away from us, but is out looking for us and will not give up on us "until" we are back in God’s arms. The very fact that we are gathered for worship today tells us that God has already found us! That’s a reason to have a thankful heart at this Eucharist, isn’t it?

How would we describe God? Well, Jesus has helped us. We have help from the one who knows. God is foolish and takes risks on our behalf. God is generous to a fault in forgiving us and welcomes us home when we are found. And wants to have a feast to celebrate because, though we were lost, we were priceless in God’s eyes and when we are found God and God’s friends want to celebrate. Isn’t that what Eucharist is for us? God’s friends, all the forgiven, gathered together around this table to celebrate and feast from a meal prepared by a welcoming and gracious God.

How will the world come to know that God is merciful and compassionate? How will our children come to believe and experience God’s free gift of love and kindness, unless they experience it in our lives? We who have taken Jesus’ word pictures to heart, believe them and try to put them into practice.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091519.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"So the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people." (Exodus 32:14)

In this reading from Exodus the people of Israel, whom God had liberated from slavery, have turned away to worship false gods. The Lord becomes righteously angry but thanks to Moses’ mediation, the wayward people are spared. The more I read this recounting, the more I see nonviolence in action.

Thomas Merton OCSO was an American Trappist monk, writer, theologian, mystic, poet, social activist, and scholar of comparative religion. He was a deeply reflective person and his words on violence/nonviolence are important to consider.

*"The real focus of American violence is not in esoteric groups but in the very culture itself, its mass media, its extreme individualism and competitiveness, its inflated myths of virility and toughness, and its overwhelming preoccupation with the power of nuclear, chemical, bacteriological, and psychological overkill. . .Can we get to the root of the trouble? In my opinion, the best way to do it would have been the classic way of religious humanism and nonviolence exemplified by Gandhi." — Thomas Merton edited with an introduction by Gordon C. Zahn (Boston, MA: McCall’s Publishing Company, 1971), p. 230

*"Nonviolence seeks to "win" not by destroying or even by humiliating the adversary, but by convincing him that there is a higher and more certain common good than can be attained by bombs and blood." — Thomas Merton, Faith and Violence, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press: 1968, p 12

This week is Campaign Nonviolence Week (9/14-22) across the nation and here in NC. The national CNV Movement states: "We stand at a monumental crossroad in human history. At a time of permanent war, growing poverty, threats to civil liberties, ecological devastation, the enduring terror of nuclear weapons, and the scourge of the structural violence of racism, sexism, homophobia, and economic injustice, humanity faces the challenge and opportunity to choose powerful and creative nonviolent alternatives, We can opt for the devastating spiral of violence and injustice, or we can build democratic, multiracial, and nonviolent societies where the dignity of all is respected and the needs of all are met. True peace and long-term human survival depend on this." This year, CNV NC is focusing on racism and dismantling today’s Jim Crow, please join the path of nonviolence.

Raleigh events posted on the national website: https://paceebene.org/events/2019/9/15/action-week-2019

Also, locally--on Facebook--"Campaign Nonviolence NC"

---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:

"Or what woman having ten coins and losing one

would not light a lamp and sweep the house,

searching carefully until she finds it?"

Reflection:

Like the shepherd looking for the lost sheep, the woman expends great energy searching for her lost coin. Also, like the shepherd, when the lost object is found there is a joyful celebration with friends and neighbors. This parable offers a refreshing female image for our God who does not give up on us until we are found.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Look around in your world:
  • What person, or group of people, seem lost?
  • What will you do about it?

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:

  • Terrance Campbell #0064125 (On death row since 3/28/02)
  • Wesley T. Smith #0765397 (5/29/02)
  • Quintel Augustine #0612123 (6/21/02)

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

On this page you can sign "The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty." 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: 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.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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