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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

4th SUNDAY OF LENT -C- March 31, 2019

Joshua 5: 9a, 10-12; Psalm 34; 2 Corinthians 5: 17-21; Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

By: Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

PRE-NOTE:

For this and next Sunday there are options for two sets of readings. If a parish has catechumens and people preparing for full communion at the Easter Vigil, the parish may choose to use the readings from the A Cycle. We have posted reflections from the A cycle for the Fourth Sunday of Lent on our webpage. The 4th Sunday of Lent - Year A



We certainly are familiar with today’s gospel story. We have called it "the Prodigal Son." Some commentators have suggested it be named, "The Prodigal Father" – after the true spendthrift in the story. Others have suggested that the title shouldn’t focus, or slant it towards one or another character. They suggest it be titled, "A Father and Two Sons." Nevertheless, however we choose to name it, this parable is very familiar to churchgoers and bible readers. We can almost repeat it by heart.

From its opening line the action starts immediately: the younger son makes his brash request asking for, "the share of your estate that should come to me." Imagine asking a parent for the inheritance you are to get when he or she dies! The son is treating the father as if he were dead, what a callous request. Most parents would take exception to the child rearing methods of this father. And they would be right! But this is not a parable on how to raise children. It has to do with how things work between God and us.

We know the rest of the story. I find it interesting to track it by the verbs: collected, set off, squandered, spent everything, hired himself, tend the swine, longed to eat, coming to his senses, he thought, got up, went back. The action, both the decline and return, is quick and to the point. The son’s fall and subsequent recovery happen decisively. Once he realizes his hopeless situation ("coming to his senses"), he seizes the chance to get help. Lent is supposed to be a time when we "come to our senses," realizing that what we have been doing is unproductive and unsatisfying, producing emptiness in our lives and a yearning for God. We "come to our senses," and decide we have to change. Like the son we are invited to do something quickly, without fearing the reception we will get when we turn back. The parable stirs up a confidence in what we will find when we return. "I know I will be well received," we can say with confidence, because of this parable. The psalm response urges us on, "Taste and see the goodness of our God." Turning back to God provides a chance to experience just how good God is, a real spendthrift with mercy! The son has confidence in being able to return; he just hadn’t expected the extra special treatment he got.

The parable is trying to instigate confidence in anyone who hears it: we might feel hesitate about turning back to God, especially if we feel we have done this too many times in the past. We might even suspect the "purity" of our motives, the sincerity of our desire to return. Considering, the son’s less-than noble reasons for his going to his father – his belly was empty and he remembered that even his father’s workers had "more than enough to eat" – we need fear no test of our own motives. Just head back home, the parable urges, God will rush out to make the return easy. In fact, when dealing with the divine, even the instinct to turn around and go home, is a gift of God. Similarly, the parable hints that there is something of the father at work on the son as the boy considers his plight, for he recalls the father’s generosity even to hired workers. I doubt that could be said about other farm owners and their employees at the time. Can that even be said now? "More than enough to eat"? The memory of the generous father is the grace that stirs the boy to pack up and head for home. When the father and son meet, the atmosphere of the father’s love and acceptance make confession of guilt easy.

Whenever we turn back to God, the parable urges us to trust in a warm welcome. The story can be painted in other ways. I think of a big hearted grandmother we go to in order to apologize for breaking her favorite baking dish and she just shushes you up and says, "Forget about it – how about some tea and cookies? I just baked them."

Would that the story ended here, at the embrace between father and son and the verse, "Then the celebration began." But there is a second half, a darker side to the story. Jesus seems to be pointing this part of the story to the Pharisees and scribes who were complaining about Jesus’ welcome of sinners. Jesus was making it much too easy, in their estimation, for people who hadn’t worked as hard at their religion as the observant Pharisees and scribes. In Jesus’ preaching it is clear that he envisions God’s throwing a party, flinging open the doors to anyone who wants to turn a repentant eye in God’s direction. Instead of the religious leaders joining the festive parade into the feast, they put up protest and stamp their feet in disapproval: God isn’t playing by the rules they had established and scrupulously observed.

From outside the house comes the elder son. He is the hard working responsible one. Any parent would have been proud of such a child. Unlike his younger brother, he learned well the lessons his parents must have taught him about hard work and living up to expectations. But what he didn’t inherit from his father (and maybe his mother too!) was his large, forgiving and celebratory heart. Despite the son’s recalcitrance, the father doesn’t give up on him, just as he didn’t give up on his brother. The father makes a second trip outside the house and goes looking for another wayward son. This one wants to be disconnected from what he has perceived in his brother and what he has learned about his father. How embarrassed the responsible son would have been when the neighbors and town folk hear about the "foolish father who wouldn’t stay home" – another name for the parable?

We may have both siblings in us. How many times have we merrily and immaturely set out on our own, fallen on our face and been grateful and surprised when we came to our senses and returned to a waiting and patient God? We have the other side in us too: we are not the greatest sinners in the world. We probably are pretty observant folk, when it comes to religious and civil rules. We may have even contributed to the latest expansion of our parish church and supported our favorite educational and charitable outreach programs. However, there is always the danger of feeling more an obligation to do the good things we are doing and less a sense of celebration and gratitude for the God who has been so generous to us. We can feel like the elder son who has "served...all these years." I wouldn’t want a child just feeling this sense of duty and obligation to me. There is no real loving relationship of child to parent – suggested in the way the elder son speaks of his time of service to his father. Turns out that both brothers have to "come to their senses." For one reason or another, both needed to come from outside and return to the father’s house.

The parable evokes a sense of trust as we turn away from our own meanderings and turn back to God this Lent. The grace of the parable encourages us to expect our God to behave like a parent who has longed to see us and has waited expectantly for us. The parable also touches the older child in us, urging us to rejoice in any brother or sister returning to their senses. We will want to be with those we know who are struggling to get free of addictive behavior or substances. Those who want to come "home" to their true or better selves. We will want to support teenagers who have left their homes either physically, or have checked out emotionally. What do they need from us at this point in their lives? We will want to be less judgmental against those who have had to flee their lands because war, economics, or nature have deprived them of food for themselves and their families. We need to put aside the elder son’s judgmental attitude against those who come looking for food or work.

The elder son may be justified in his distress and anger. After all, his father has acted in a very unpredictable way and shaken the foundation on which the son has stood. If this father, to whom he has been so subservient, has thrown all standards and expected ways of behaving up in the air by his flamboyant acceptance of his wayward son, then how can the elder brother rely on this father for his security? The father is unpredictable.Who knows what the old man will do next? So now both sons are going to have to live in trust: that generous forgiveness is always there for them. No matter how foolishly they act, they can expect their father to outdo himself in forgiveness and welcome. When need arises, this father will be there for them, no matter how foolish he may appear to onlookers.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/033119-yearc.cfm

QUOTABLE


Almighty God, restore the dignity of our human condition,

long disfigured by excess but now restored by the

discipline of self denial.

—Missal of Pius V

 

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.

2 Corinthians 5:20

In this passage, Paul invites us to celebrate the way in which God has reconciled all things to himself in Christ so that we can become a new creation in Christ. How wonderfully appropriate to this Sunday of rejoicing (Laetare Sunday). Also known as Rose Sunday, we are given a glimpse at the wonderful new beginnings that come with Easter resurrection.

In the Second Reading, where this passage is found, the Greek word katallasso means "to reconcile" or "to decisively change." We are the ones called to reconcile and change what makes us less Christ-like. How can we be ambassadors for Christ if our lives do not reflect the actions of Jesus? This is especially true in our response, or lack of response, to the oppressed, the poor, the outcasts, and the other.

The Catholic faith is both vertical in our relationship with God AND horizontal in our relationships with our fellow human beings and our living earth. Devotion to God is incomplete without the horizontal awareness that God is present in every aspect of God’s creation. We can see this in the example that Pope Francis offers (1/21/18): "Jesus walks through the city with his disciples and begins to see, to hear, to notice those who have given up in the face of indifference, laid low by the grave sin of corruption. He begins to bring to light many situations that had killed the hope of his people and to awaken a new hope. He calls his disciples and invites them to set out with him. He calls them to walk through to the city, but at a different pace; he teaches them to notice what they had previously overlooked, and he points out new and pressing needs. Repent, he tells them. The Kingdom of Heaven means finding in Jesus a God who gets involved with the lives of his people. He gets involved and involves others not to be afraid to make of our history a history of salvation" (cf. Mk 1:15, 21). This is what it means to act as an ambassador for Christ.

What injustice have you ignored in our own greater community? Need some places to put your energy for the work of Christ on earth? Check out the many ministries we have outside the walls of our parish on our website: http://www.raleighcathedral.org/social-justice-programs

Pass on the hope that you have received.

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral,

Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

4th SUNDAY OF LENT -C- March 31, 2019

Joshua 5: 9a, 10-12; Psalm 34; 2 Corinthians 5: 17-21; Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

By: Jude Siciliano, OP

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 2 Corinthian’s reading:

"Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away;

behold, new things have come."

Reflection:

Paul says our relationship with God was restored, not through any work of ours, but through God’s initiative in Christ. It wasn’t just Jesus’ sacrificial death that accomplished our reconciliation, but his sacrificial life. Throughout his life he poured himself out for us in love. This was God’s doing and, if we accept it in faith, we are reconciled to God.

So we ask ourselves:

  • As we reflect on our lives this Lent, what feels "old": a worn-out way of behaving?
  • Have we noticed any signs of new life in those very areas?

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:

  • Jeffrey Kandies #0221506 (On death row since 4/20/9
  • Vincent M. Wooten #0453231 (4/29/94)
  • John R. Elliott #0120038 (5/4/94)

----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: http://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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