"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

2nd SUNDAY OF LENT -C- March 17, 2019

Genesis 15: 5-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3: 17-4:1; Luke 9: 28b-36

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

A picture dominated the front page of the daily New York Times recently (Tuesday, February 26, 2019). It was an arresting photo of a young boy, about five or six years old. He was wearing a flimsy pair of black shorts and was dripping wet. He looked like he was shivering. His big black eyes stared right at the camera.

I looked at the photo and wondered if he had just emerged from the Rio Grande River, after having crossed the southern border. Or, was he one of those refugees who survived his boat’s sinking in the Mediterranean after fleeing Syria? I have seen so many images of families fleeing violence in their homeland and children separated from their parents. So, I thought, " One more poor and desperate child – how many more will there be?"

I turned to the story within the paper and found that I had been looking at a most-appropriate Lenten image. The boy had just emerged from bathing in the Ganges River. He was not Christian, he was Hindu, It seems the two faiths merge in their beliefs and have similar practices. The picture was from Prayagraj, India. Other pictures showed thousands of Hindu faithful in the same river. For centuries people have come to this place to wash away their sins. The newspaper called it, "The world’s largest religious gathering." How large? Well, many times more than can fit in Vatican Square. Every six years, for several months, hundreds of millions of worshipers, come for the ritual cleansing in the Ganges!

Do you feel a kinship to these penitents? After all, it is Lent and we are not the only people who put time aside for penance, prayers and ritual cleansing. We don’t go to bathe in the Ganges, but we travel through Lent, preparing for the Easter mysteries when we receive forgiveness and cleansing, as we are sprinkled with newly blessed Easter waters. We, those Hindu devotees and members of the other world religions, share a common human experience. We are reminded of the limits and shortcomings of what our world can provide for us.

All is not well with the world; nor with us. We are sinners who have turned, in small or large ways, from the God whom Genesis reminds us, has made a covenant with our ancestors and has renewed that covenant with us by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On Ash Wednesday those dry ashes reminded us how we have turned away from God and invested ourselves in the world and its passing ways. Relying on ourselves is not enough and will eventually disappoint us. It’s hard to admit this. We spend most of our time avoiding clear-eyed introspection of our lives. And so, "Ashes to ashes and dust to dust."

That Times article ended on a pessimistic, some would say realistic, note. It quoted several Hindu priests who criticized the commercialism that has crept into the gathering over the years. For example, plush accommodations were recently constructed for the wealthy pilgrims who could afford to stay for $500 a night! The upcoming elections in India have also split the nation, including those penitent bathers at the Ganges, into feuding parties. Sound familiar?

Is Lent going to be like that for us? Our Ash Wednesday probably began with resolutions to: pray more, respond to the needs of our neighbor, be more patient at home, read an uplifting book, attend daily mass or, be more attentive at our Sunday worship. It is only the second week of Lent but have we already slipped in our resolutions and gone back to the "same old, same old?" We are not Hindus who can go to the Ganges to cleanse ourselves from broken resolutions, human weaknesses and sin. But, there is water available for us in the font each time we enter the church. We can "wash" in those waters, as we sign ourselves with the cross and prepare to be cleansed again by the sacred mysteries we are about to celebrate together.

In our second reading Paul uses very graphic language to describe our human condition. "Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their ‘shame.’ Their minds are occupied with earthly things." He was speaking of those who emphasized external religious practices like dietary rules, but were fixed on things of the world. They could now look beyond this world to receive a share in the very life and grace of God through Jesus Christ.

Lent is a wake up call, not to settle for what is flimsy and passing, but to realize, as Paul puts it, "our citizenship is in heaven." Lent reminds us that we have expected too little of ourselves and of our God. Abraham and Sarah did not have a son and without a legitimate heir, their inheritance would pass to a slave woman. But God promised Abraham that they would have many children. Abraham had to surrender to God in faith and after a deep terrifying darkness, he accepted God’s promise to do for him, what he could do for himself.

The scriptures today invite us to look beyond our daily lives and routines to a deeper union with the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s an invitation to transformation and transfiguration from what is merely earthly and passing to the promise God has made us, in Christ – that we are already "citizens of heaven."

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031719.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"Hear, O Lord, the sound of my call; have pity on me, and answer me."

Psalm 27:7

If we take a moment to contemplate St. Teresa of Avila’s words, "Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world," then we know that responding to the needs of the poor is our task to do.

I hope by now that you have picked up your CRS Rice Bowl and calendar and have begun to use some of the suggestions offered to shape your spiritual practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving this Lent. Reflect on the stories, prepare some of the meatless meals, and put the money you saved by not buying meat – an average of $3 per person per meal – into your CRS Rice Bowl to feed our brothers and sisters in need around the world. You will find that drawing closer to the poor draws you closer to God and enables you to be a sign of hope for others.

CRS Rice Bowl is the Lenten program of Catholic Relief Services, the official relief and development agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. CRS Rice Bowl shares stories of hope from CRS’ work around the world. Each story is accompanied by a simple, meatless recipe that families are encouraged to prepare on Fridays during Lent. Lenten alms donated through CRS Rice Bowl support the work of CRS in roughly 45 different countries each year. 25% of all donations to CRS Rice Bowl stay in the local diocese, supporting hunger and poverty alleviation efforts. Since its inception in 1975, CRS Rice Bowl has raised nearly $300 million.

Be sure to begin your journey by viewing the CRS Lenten digital retreat (www.crsricebowl.org/digital-retreat ), where the words of Jesus’ parable on the Good Samaritan are juxtaposed with the words of Pope Francis, thereby connecting an ancient teaching with a present reality. Because we are all called to be Good Samaritans, especially today, as so many of our brothers and sisters are forced from their homes, fleeing violence, economic hardship, persecution and climate injustice.

All the reflections, videos, and recipes can be found at: www.crsricebowl.org and/or their app at: https://www.crsricebowl.org/about/app Both are available in English or Spanish. Also, to donate by check, make check payable to HNOJ Cathedral for CRS Rice Bowl and put in collection basket at Masses.

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 Genesis reading:

Abram put his faith in the Lord,

who credited it to him as an act of righteousness

Reflection:

Despite doubts about our worthiness we are urged, like Abraham, to make an "act of righteousness," to put our trust in God’s love and care for us. And, like Abraham, trust God will never abandon us.

So we ask ourselves:

ONE GOOD BOOK FOR THE PREACHER

THE TREASURE OF GUADALUPE, edited by Virgilio Elizondo, Allan Gigueroa Deck and Timothy Matovina. (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, Inc. 2006.) Paper, 134 pages. ISBN 978-0-7425-4857-2.

Noted preachers, pastoral leaders and thinkers share with us homilies and meditations on the rich Guadalupan tradition. People from various ethnic backgrounds will find these reflections helpful. They are not meant for direct use, but as resources to inspire, preachers, catechists, teachers and others in a tradition that has nourished so many of our Mexican brothers and sisters who have brought their faith into our midst. The treasure that awaits us in this book is to discover an authentic Christian faith that is rooted in the soil of the Americas.

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries, Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC

 

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:

----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: 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:

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