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."
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
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
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
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…
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.
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
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
— Dennis Edwards, "Jesus and the
Natural World," (page 48)
there are at least ten there?"
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
Director of Social
Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
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:
said to his disciples...
you then, you who are wicked know how to give good gifts to your
much more will the Father in heaven
the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"
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
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
to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an
inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form
it is carried out."
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:
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the
is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday
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If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group,
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these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.
You can order the CDs by going to our webpage:
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2. "Homilías Dominicales" —These
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3. Our webpage:
- Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes
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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
you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the
Great Priory of Texas
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