I live in a community of Dominican Friars. Like you and your
families, we have our rituals. Each night after evening prayer and
before dinner, we sit down to watch the 5:30 world news. I don’t
know why we do, because the news these days is terrible! So much
suffering for so many millions – we often groan after some of the
reports we see and hear. Don’t you?
The commercials, which are many, don’t give us a break. We
frequently comment about all those medicines that are advertised for
sick, or elderly people – they seem to be addressed to us to remind
us that we are getting older! (Who needs to be reminded!) Sometimes
I think I need a degree in pharmacy to understand those commercials.
The listing of their-side effects takes longer than the description
of the medicines and their hoped-for benefits. After watching those
ads, I think we should get credits from a medical school.
Some of those commercials are also quite eye-catching; like the
one of the woman lying on the sofa with an elephant sitting on her.
We learned that she has COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
I never knew what that was.
More than one commercial is about people who have trouble
breathing – asthma, emphysema, or COPD. The ads show (and people
report) that these lung diseases can affect a person’s quality of
life; they have less energy and are limited in what they can do.
They are forced to live confined lives. Well, we don’t need TV
commercials to tell us about the importance of breathing clearly, do
we? Even if we just have a cold, or bronchitis, we know that
difficulty breathing can restrict our daily activities and make them
hard to perform them.
Breath is a symbol in the Bible for the Holy Spirit. The Bible
begins with the story of God breathing into clay to form the first
human. We humans began through the "life-giving" breath of God and
each breath we take is an ongoing gift. We breathe in, we breathe
out – alive because of God’s breath in us. Which suggests another
name for the Holy Spirit – the "Holy Breath of God."
When Jesus was killed the community was shattered. Even though
there was word he had risen, we find his disciples, on the very day
of the resurrection, breathless in fear and locked behind closed
doors. That is not what Jesus had in mind when he called them to
follow him. They are not going to spread the news of him if they are
all locked up, short of breath.
When the risen Christ appears before them he calms their fears by
offering them peace: "Peace be with you." It was an act of
forgiveness for their failure to stand with him when he needed them.
It is the first gift he gives us as we begin each Eucharist – the
gift of peace. Then he says, "Peace be with you" again. Why does he
say it a second time? Because he has something in mind for them. He
is about to send them out into an unfriendly, hostile, world to
share his mercy. Imagine – they will even have to forgive enemies,
and to announce the news through their words and actions of God’s
love for all people. All people: even drug dealers? Even inmates at
our nearby federal prison? Even the people who have wronged us? Yes,
and many more.
I suspect, when they heard that challenging mission, they gasped
and fell short of breath. A shortness of breath no prescription
medicine could cure. What they needed was a new start in life. They
needed an invigorating breath from God. They needed was their
Creator God to breathe again into lifeless clay and create faithful
disciples of Jesus – new human beings – and a community of people
with enthusiasm, energy and direction for the mission Jesus was
Hiding behind closed doors is not the mission of the church.
Playing it safe might work these days for the ups and downs of the
stock market; for crossing a busy street; installing a security
system in our homes. But, not for being a disciple of Jesus. Playing
it safe is not the game plan for Christians. When Jesus breathed
upon his disciples God was breathing into clay again, forming
renewed human beings and an energized, faithful community of
Patricia Sanchez once told this story in her commentary on
today’s feast. A teacher at a Catholic University asked her students
if they thought their faith was worth sharing. One student’s
response struck the teacher, "If you love someone, or something,
enough you want to share it. If you are in love you can’t wait to
tell others. So, if you love what it means to be a Christian, it
makes all the difference in the world that you give this gift to
someone you love."
People who breathe with the breath of the Spirit are not
bystanders in life. They don’t live behind locked doors in fear.
When an opportunity to share their faith arises, they speak up. When
an injustice has been done, they act on it. When someone is
grieving, they sit with them in consolation. When a classmate is
bullied, they stand alongside them. When a new worker shows up on
the job, they help them get oriented. When a wrong is done them they
forgive, even before being asked. When they have important choices
to make, they choose the most loving one.
No one image can capture the Holy Spirit. Today it is described
as a life-giving breath. If we are facing an issue these days that
is testing our faith, draining our energy, and leaving us short of
breath, then here is a prayer we can say, not in words, but with a
gesture: Breathe in, and with each breath, pray this ancient prayer
– "Come Holy Spirit come."
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
For those of us who write, it is necessary to scrutinize
not only the truth of what we speak, but the truth of
that language by which we speak it. For others, it is to
share and spread also those words that are meaningful to
us. But primarily for us all, it is necessary to teach
by living and speaking those truths which we believe and
know beyond understanding.
suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a driving wind."
Acts 2: 2
Having lived in Florida for the early part of my life, I can
remember the roar of hurricanes, the sheer power, and the clean up
afterward that sometimes required new improvements in our community,
our personal homes, and, most definitely, a new less-complacent
attitudes in ourselves. If a hurricane can do that, can you imagine
what an encounter with the Holy Spirit can do?
In his homily from Pentecost 2013, Pope Francis states:
"Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure
if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build,
program, and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our
own comfort, our own preferences. This is also the case when it
comes to God. Often we follow him, we accept him, but only up to a
certain point. It is hard to abandon ourselves to him with complete
trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our
lives in our every decision. We fear that God may force us to strike
out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and
selfish horizons in order to become open to his own. Yet. . .Noah,
mocked by all, builds an ark and is saved; Abram leaves his land
with only a promise in hand; Moses stands up to the might of Pharaoh
and leads his people to freedom; the apostles, huddled fearfully in
the Upper Room, go forth with courage to proclaim the Gospel. This
is not a question of novelty for novelty’s sake, the search for
something new to relieve our boredom, as is so often the case in our
own day. The newness which God brings into our life is something
that actually brings fulfilment, that gives true joy, true serenity,
because God loves us and desires only our good. Let us ask
ourselves: Are we open to God’s surprises? Or are we closed and
fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? Do we have the
courage to strike out along the new paths which God’s newness sets
before us, or do we resist, barricaded in transient structures which
have lost their capacity for openness to what is new?"
On this Pentecost, may you fearlessly be made new when you hear
God's call and encounter the Spirit’s wind.
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 Acts reading:
they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
began to speak in different tongues,
the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
It is clear that the Spirit does not leave the disciples
comfortable, safe, locked away in a sheltered world. When the Spirit
comes those who were huddled together are driven out into the world
– a very different and confused world than they were accustomed to.
But they were not on their own. They were sent and accompanied by
So we ask ourselves:
- The Holy Spirit is sometimes called, "The Forgotten God."
- How conscious am I of the Spirit in prayer and worship? In
my daily undertakings?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH
"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."
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:
- Keith East #0511998 (On death row since 11/8/95)
- John Mc Neil #0275678 (11/10/95)
- Stacey Tyler #0414853 (11/14/95)
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
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
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
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
Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our
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1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:
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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:
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
3. Our webpage:
- 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
you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the
Great Priory of Texas
Vince Hagan Drive
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