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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

17th SUNDAY -C- July 28, 2019

Genesis 18: 20-32; Psalm 138; Colossians 2: 12-14; Luke 11: 1-13

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

WELCOME: We have a new feature on our webpage, "Breath of Ecology." These will be weekly reflections by Sr. Joel Gubler, OP to help people discover God in nature. Sister is a native of New Orleans, lives in Springfield, Ky. and is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Peace. She has been a teacher, school and parish administrator, social worker, religious educator, and missionary. Go to our webpage and click on "Breath of Ecoloy." https://www.preacherexchange.com/


Welcome to the latest email recipients of "First Impressions," the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt, NY


Someone returned recently from a tour of the Holy Land and described their experience to me. They live in the mid-west on a farm and were excited about the wonders they saw of modern irrigation in Israel which made, they said, the "desert bloom." As for the rest of the land, my farmer friend told me, "It looks like the face of the moon; so rocky and parched."

Imagine 2000 years ago. It was still the Holy Land, but the vast majority of people were desperately poor. It was also a hostile land for travelers. The terrain, "the face of the moon," was not just uncomfortable, it was dangerous because of the thieves who attacked travelers. In such an environment hospitality for a friend, or stranger, was critical and could be a matter of life or death.

Hospitality was a fine art. The rule was that you supplied your best, even more than a guest could eat. But such hospitality was not unique to those times. I was at a luncheon a while back honoring a Catholic sister who spent years working in a major southern city with the poor. She was asked what got her started on this road; sensitivity to the needs of the disadvantaged. She described an incident from her youth. In the days of segregation, six African-American men were digging a ditch on a hot summer day in a vacant lot next to her home. One of the men knocked at the back screen door and asked for water. She got the jelly jar glasses her family drank from and was filling them when her mother came in and said to her, "No dear," and replaced the jelly jars with their best Sunday-visitor glasses – from the top shelf of the cupboard. Her mother said to her, "Honey, you always serve guests with the best glasses." That gesture was imprinted on her the rest of her life and she names it as a key moment that opened her eyes to the stranger in need. She said, "I woke up to the importance of hospitality for each person."

In today’s parable a neighbor knocks at the door of a home in the middle of the night. In a small village all would know each other. They would also have shared a common oven for baking and know where to find the best bread to serve a visitor. The homes were small, more like a hut. At midnight when the neighbor came calling, the family would be stretched out, asleep in the same room. What a disturbance it would be to get up to respond to the person knocking at the door. Even more, to share from the family bread basket. Would that sharing mean less for the family? Hospitality at midnight could also be a risky undertaking – was it really a friend knocking late at night?

But Jesus’ hearers were well trained in hospitality. Not to be gracious and welcome a traveler would have been put a stigma, not only on the host family, but on the entire village. There was no suspense in this parable. The listeners would have known what the response would be. The person would get up and fulfill the request, with generosity – no matter what time of day or night it was. It would be unthinkable to hold back. Sharing food was really sharing life and rules of hospitality required sharing the best you had – the freshest bread.

Jesus begins the parable saying, "Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight...." He is really posing a rhetorical question, presuming this response from his hearers: "No one would turn down a friend coming for bread for another friend." Their ways of hospitality presumed a generous response. And that is where the parable comes home to us.

Jesus is the hospitality of God; the best and always-ready-bread for the hungers we face on our sometimes arduous life journey. Hungers like: trying to keep doing what is right and fair; loving those who are less than loving to us; addressing the overwhelming issues of poverty, education, racism and other seeming-immovable mountains; facing serious illness, or the physical hardships of old age, etc.

I always thought asking, seeking, and knocking were kinds of guarantees. If I prayed the right prayer, hard enough and long enough, what I asked for I would get; what I sought I would find and when I knocked, I would get a quick and easy entry. And, like you, I have prayed hard and long for some not-trifling things. Today I hear Jesus say, "How much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him." That always sounded like a consolation prize for what I prayed hard about and didn’t get by "asking… seeking… knocking."

Now I realize I have been heard and given the bread of Jesus’ very Spirit. The Spirit was given when: I stayed with a difficult situation and somehow muddled through; I persevered in a struggle for what I thought was right even though things did not change quickly; was able to make a difficult sacrifice I hadn’t thought possible; found myself changing, becoming more compassionate towards folks who drive me to distraction!

Jesus says God will give us the Spirit if we ask. That means a new breath inside to quicken our spirits; breathe new life into some lifeless situations; give hope when we are ready to throw in the towel. So we ask, seek, and knock for that Spirit which Jesus promises us, believing that we are knocking at a door of a friend who is hospitable and has good bread waiting for us.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072819.cfm

QUOTABLE

In bringing bread and wine to the altar and holding them up to God, we symbolically bring the whole creation to the table of God.

We bring all the creatures of Earth with us to the Eucharist and give thanks and praise for them.

We remember the vulnerable state of the community of life on our planet today.

We grieve over the damage we are doing to God’s creatures, we glimpse a vision of the whole creation transformed in Christ, and we commit ourselves to Earth’s healing.

— Dennis Edwards, "Jesus and the Natural World," (page 48)

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"What if there are at least ten there?"

Genesis 18:32

I have to admit that I have read this passage about the saving of Sodom and Gomorrah many times without truly realizing that Abraham is haggling with God!

It was in reading a chapter on intercessory prayer in a book called, Engaging the Powers (Fortress, 1992), by Walter Wink that I came to understand that I have been "doing" intercessory prayer out of keeping with biblical understanding. Wink writes, "This is a God who works with us and for us, to make and keep human life humane. And what God does depends on the intercessions of those who care enough to try to shape a future more humane than the present. . .The fawning etiquette of unctuous prayer is utterly foreign to the Bible. Biblical prayer is impertinent, persistent, shameless, indecorous. It is more like haggling in an oriental bazaar than the polite monologues of the churches. . .Scripture is full of this motif of spirited give-and-take with God" (301-2). This certainly gives new meaning to the nearness of God.

Wink opens the window to a powerful form of prayer. He writes, "History belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being" (304). "For intercession, to be Christian, must be prayer for God’s reign to come on earth. It must be prayer for the victory of God over circumstances of people’s lives now. . .We have been commanded to command. We are required by God to haggle with God for the sake of the sick, the obsessed, the weak, and to conform our lives to our intercessions" (303). To use an example, Wink cites the wording of the Lord’s Prayer as an imperative, "we are ordering God to bring the Kingdom near" (ibid). "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done" is definitely worded as a directive.

There is also something else that may occur. Wink tells us that "our intercessions sometimes change us as we open ourselves to new possibilities we had not guessed. . .to become the answer to our prayer." Even with that, "intercession," Wink says, "is more than that. . .The change in even one person thus changes what God can thereby do in that world" (302).

When was the last time that you gathered with others in intercessory prayer? We have a monthly intercessory prayer group that will begin meeting again in September on the 1st Saturday of every month. To learn more or join, contact socialconcern@hnojnc.org

---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 to his disciples...

"If you then, you who are wicked know how to give good gifts to your children,

how much more will the Father in heaven

give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"

Reflection:

Jesus promises God will give us the Spirit if we ask. So we ask, seek, and knock for that Spirit, believing that we are knocking at a door of a friend who is hospitable and has good bread waiting for us.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Where in my life do I need the Spirit’s life-giving breath?
  • How will I share the gifts the Spirit has given me with someone in my community?

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:

  • Lyle May #0580028 (On death row since 3/18/99)
  • Nathaniel Fair #0125241 (4/1/99)
  • Keith Wiley #0654009 (5/27/99)

----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/

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: http://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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