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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

PENTECOST -B- May 20, 2018

Acts 2: 1-11; Ps. 104; I Cor 12: 3b-7, 12-13; John 20: 19-23

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

 

 

Pentecost

Sunday

2018

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 giving them.

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 believers.

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."

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052018-mass-during-day.cfm

QUOTABLE


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.

Audre Lorde
 

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"And 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.

---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 Acts reading:

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit

and began to speak in different tongues,

as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Reflection:

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 the Spirit

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 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:

  • 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 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.PreacherExchanhe.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: http://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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