"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

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. http://www.preacherexchange.com


I have podcasts and apps on my phone. Throughout the day banners drop-down with news updates about: the Central American refugees’ progress through Mexico; the latest events from the White House; the awful tornado in Alabama; the economic and political crisis in Venezuela; Prime Minister Trudeau’s political woes in Canada, etc.

With modern technology and social media I imagine all over the world people are getting similar updates – almost immediately. Together we learn of tragedies, conflicts, weather, soccer and baseball scores. News these days travels fast, very fast.

In Jesus’ time news traveled much slower. No Internet. No newspaper. Just word of mouth. Today’s gospel tells us what people were talking about. Like our own times, the top news of the day were about tragedies. Bad news travels fast in any age. Two tragedies, with two different causes. People told Jesus about the tyrant Pilate’s slaughter of Galileans (Jesus was a Galilean). Pilate killed them in the Temple, where they had come to offer animal sacrifices. The blood of the victims, mixed with the blood of their own sacrifices. Imagine the outrage, humiliation and impotency of the Jewish people over what happened to those victims. In, of all places, the sacred Temple! Jesus’ contemporaries had a specific human to blame for this first piece of bad news – Pilate – one more tyrant coming down hard on the backs of an enslaved people.

What would people say about the second piece of bad news? A tower collapsed in Siloam and killed 18 people. Similar catastrophes continue to happen in our own time. Some are the results of natural forces (like the recent tornado in Alabama); others are caused by faulty construction – sometimes because of attempts to cut the costs of construction. In Jesus’ time, maybe for some today, people would have said: "God was punishing those people." It is not uncommon when pain, tragedy, or sickness happen that people ask: "What did I do that God is punishing me so?"

If we conclude that God is punishing us when bad things happen, then that lets other people off the hook who might conclude: "I must be doing something right in God’s eyes, look how blessed I am. I have good health, good job, a together family, good schooling etc." It is appropriate to appreciate and be thankful for the good things in our lives. But today’s gospel offers us a caution. Our prosperity and well-being have nothing to do with our virtue, nor are they a reward for good behavior.

Jesus pushes aside such presumptuous conclusions and challenges his hearers, who might be feeling content and comfortable, to examine their own lives and make changes when and where necessary. What an appropriate gospel for Lent!

Thus, the parable of the fig tree. It’s not bearing fruit, but the gardener convinces the owner to give it another year, under the gardener’s extra care. "Sir, leave it for this year also and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it. It may bear fruit in the future. If not cut it down." It is a tale of reprieve; there is time to do something. But that comes with a caution that can stir us to do what needs to be done – before it is too late.

The parable might remind us of what we already know: life is short. We certainly know enough people who have died suddenly. That should wake us up. It could prompt us to: work on that tattered relationship; attend to our marriage; spend more time with the kids; deal with that bad habit; make that phone call; join our parish community and its outreach to the poor – before it is too late.

The parable about the barren fig tree is a grace. It is a wake up call to tell us it is a good time to make the changes we have been putting off and know we must do. Because, the parable is quite clear... there is a time limit. I work best when I have a deadline. I get to the job at hand; concentrate my best efforts and work diligently. Hear the voice of the gardener, "If it doesn’t bear fruit you can cut it down."

We are being given time – a graced time. We have space to grow; mature spiritually; reshape our lives; serve the Lord; remove the obstacles, big or small, between us and God; between us and others.

There is a deadline. But we don’t have to get our act together on our own. The parable is about grace. We are "cultivated" by a loving Gardener. If we desire to change we have help. Jesus is the Gardener who will nurture in us fruits of conversion and faithful discipleship.

If we open our eyes and look closely we might see the gracious hand of God reaching out to us: through friends and family; in the breaks in our daily routine; during a quiet moment and even in the rush and in the surprises. God’s gracious hand is there guiding and strengthening us through: the Scriptures, showing us the way and helping us to choose it and in the resurrected life of Jesus present to us today on the altar. He is the Gardener who nourishes us and gives himself as food and drink so that we can use the time we have to change and bear fruit – not just for ourselves, – but for those in need.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031019.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

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 Corinthians 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:

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 a secure online donation: https://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