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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

6th Sunday of Easter, -C- May 26, 2019

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Revelation 21: 10-14, 22-23; John 14: 23-29

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

We are beginning to hear more explicit mention of the Holy Spirit as we prepare for the vigil and feast of Pentecost. Once we enter the regular sequence of Sundays after Pentecost, known as "Ordinary Time", we will hear less explicit mention of the Spirit in our readings. What a shame, for it is the Spirit who gives life, conviction and passion to our Christian lives. It is clear from our readings today that the Christian community is indebted to the Spirit for its very existence and well-being. It is the Sprit who stirs up the waters of our baptism in us (as the spiritual says, "troubles the waters") at crucial stages of our lives. The Spirit is the animator of our prayers, not just encouraging us to pray, but groaning in prayer within us. The Spirit is not staid and sedate. While he/she creates, strengthens and preserves the church, there is no limiting, or enclosing the Spirit in any one creed or church. Karl Rahner says the Spirit is also to be found in, "a mysticism of everyday life outside a verbalized and institutionalized Christianity...."

As one preacher puts it, the Spirit is more verb than noun. God does not merely observe what creation is doing, but is both Creator and Participant in the very process of the universe. It is also the Holy Spirit who shakes us awake into awareness of injustice and sin. The Spirit causes us to get involved in the less-than-orderly task of making things right for the disadvantaged and abused of our world. And because this work of justice seems never to be done, it is the Spirit who nourishes us in prayer and keeps us committed to the task of being a co-creator with the Spirit of a new creation. To repeat: the Spirit is more verb than noun.

The first reading has its roots in a controversy in the early church. The earliest converts were from Judaism and Jesus himself couched his message in Jewish imagery and language. But Christianity spread rapidly beyond its Jewish origins and so controversy arose about whether, or not, to continue observing the Mosaic law. Two contrary points of view crystalized: (1) New members were to observe the Mosaic practices (the view of the "Judaizers") (2) Christianity was freed from such observances and they were not crucial to belief in Jesus.

These conflicting views emerge in the reading as the "Judaizers" come from Judea to the new community in Antioch to preach observance of the Mosaic code. The issue is settled by the community back in Jerusalem and their response is bold in its presumption: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and ours too, not to lay on you any burden beyond that which is strictly necessary...." The church leaders changed the custom of centuries in a sweeping move that expresses confidence in the Spirit’s active and ongoing presence with them. The guidelines they give are brief and exhibit trust in the ability of the new community in Antioch to come to its own specifics on how to live out the teaching of Jesus. In other words, the apostles and elders have confidence, that what Jesus promised them (in today’s Gospel), has truly happened: the Spirit, the Paraclete, was in their midst, "to instruct you in everything and remind you of all that I told you."

We too have the confidence of not having been left orphans devoid of Jesus’ guiding presence. There are many signs of this presence in our church that the preacher might use for illustrations, but one way his presence and guidance is available to us is in the lives of his faith-filled witnesses. They concretely show us that Jesus’ life is possible in our age. These witnesses also fulfill what Jesus promised in today’s Gospel; that the promised Spirit (Paraclete) would "remind" us of all that Jesus told us. The preacher should be concrete and give an example of such witnesses – those people who are sure signs that the Spirit continues to animate and inspire us with the life of Christ. Such witnesses also "instruct" us by their lives, how to live Jesus’ message in our day. It might be best when giving such examples to draw them from everyday life so that the ordinary Christian can feel Spirit-life is within our grasp.

A little caution here: there are three themes in today’s Gospel reading: (1) love as the force that unites us to God; (2) the promise of the Holy Spirit; (3) the peace and joy that comes from Jesus’ return to God. All three would be too much for the preacher to cover adequately, it might be best to choose one.

Thus, in anticipation of Pentecost, the preacher might choose to focus on the coming and the role of the Spirit in the church. The community to whom this Gospel was written (circa 90) was at a crucial stage. The apostles and eye witnesses to Jesus were dead and still he had not returned. They were a persecuted community and needed his presence desperately. Thus, they would be encouraged by signs that his Spirit was still with him. Here is another example of the graciousness of God, for the disciples do not have to earn the Spirit. The Spirit is crucial for the living faith of the church and so God will give the Spirit. We learn from Jesus today that this Spirit will be sent "in Jesus’" name, and so will link us with the life of Jesus. The Spirit will also teach what we need to more fully incorporate the life of Christ in our daily lives. With these activities of the Spirit in our midst there will be ample signs of Jesus’ continued presence in the life of the church and the public witness of its members.

Another preaching focus might be the gift of peace that Jesus leaves with his disciples. This word ("shalom") has rich meaning in the Jewish community. It was used in greetings and partings – a wish for a life of harmony in God’s community; a life lacking nothing; a life of complete fullness. This life would be instituted with the arrival of the Messiah. Jesus brings his "peace" and all that it implies to his followers. The peace he gives us also stirs up in us a desire that such a peace be experienced by all and so the disciple is spurred to make this peace a reality in the world. Rather than being a source of contention or division, the disciple at home and in the market place works to create a healthy and life-sustaining harmony in the community.

And sometimes, to create a truly caring and healthy community, a community of shalom, the disciple may even have to disturb an unhealthy and superficial harmony so as to create one that is true for all members. For example, a group working to change unhealthy working conditions in sweat shops in the inner city, or a developing country might seem troublesome to those who gain from such oppressive labor practices. They might be accused of disturbing the peace. But the reality may be, that the disciple of Christ is really working so that all might enjoy his "shalom," all might live and enjoy fullness of life.

Thus, if we experience the peace and assurance of Jesus at this eucharistic celebration today, what will we do to make such a peace available to others? How can we help them experience a more complete life? What do the lives of those around us still lack so that they too can experience the peace Jesus offers us today?

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052619.cfm

QUOTABLE

The Second Synod of Orange taught with firm authority that nothing human can demand, merit or buy the gift of divine grace and that all cooperation with it is a prior gift of that same grace: "Even the desire to be cleansed comes about in us through the outpouring and working of the Holy Spirit." Subsequently, the Council of Trent, while emphasizing the importance of our cooperation for spiritual growth, reaffirmed that dogmatic teaching. "We are said to be justified gratuitously because noting that precedes justification, neither faith nor works, merits the grace of justification; for ‘if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace’ (Rom 11:6)."

---Pope Francis, "Apostolic Exhortation: Gaudete et Exsultate," #53

 JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you!

Psalm 67:6

Setting aside our praises to God at Masses, how often do you hear others praising God in your everyday world? How often do you celebrate God in your life? We should be a joyous people especially in Easter season but often, we get right back on to our old familiar saddle. So, I am posting one of the most joyous praises in our Catholic faith--a joyous thank you to God for the creation. Have some spiritual fun and try writing your own praise of creation this spring.

The Canticle of Creation by St. Francis of Assisi

O Most High, all-powerful, good Lord God, to you belong praise, glory, honor and all blessing.

Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation and especially for our Brother Sun, who brings us the day and the light; he is strong and shines magnificently. O Lord, we think of you when we look at him.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon, and for the stars which you have set shining and lovely in the heavens.

Be praised, my Lord, for our Brothers Wind and Air and every kind of weather by which you, Lord, uphold life in all your creatures.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Water, who is very useful to us, and humble and precious and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire, through whom you give us light in the darkness: he is bright and lively and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Earth, our Mother, who nourishes us and sustains us, bringing forth fruits and vegetables of many kinds and flowers of many colors.

Be praised, my Lord, for those who forgive for love of you; and for those who bear sickness and weakness in peace and patience- you will grant them a crown.

Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister Death, whom we must all face.

I praise and bless you, Lord, and I give thanks to you, and I will serve you in all humility.

---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 Book of Revelation reading:

The angel took me in spirit to a great, high mountain

and showed me the holy city Jerusalem

coming down out of heaven from God.

Reflection:

Revelation keeps our feet firmly rooted in our present struggles to live the Christian life; but it also focuses our eyes on what is to come. The world’s indomitable powers, despite present appearances, will be overcome. In the meanwhile, John is inviting us to turn away from the false values and powers of the world and focus on the vision of the new Holy City where we will dwell with God and one another.

So we ask ourselves:

  • How does our hope in a permanent future with God affect our lives now?
  • What signs do I see that strengthen my hope in the power of good over evil?

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:

  • Robbie D. Locklear #0246186 (On death row since 5/14/96)
  • Archie L. Billings #0471315 (6/5/96)
  • Angel Guevara #0506556 (6/20/96)

----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: https://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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