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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "

2nd SUNDAY OF ADVENT (B) December 10, 2017

Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11; Psalm 85; 2 Peter 3: 8-14; Mark 1: 1-8

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

AN END OF THE YEAR APPEAL

I know, like me, you have had programs interrupted on public radio and television for fundraising. Allow me to do a similar thing. We need your help for "PreacherExchange.com" and "First Impressions." We have kept the Spanish and English internet preaching and liturgical resources free so those in poorer parishes and the developing world can have access to them. Judging from the emails I get that is exactly what is happening. Will you help us continue to do that?

At the priory we pray for our benefactors daily. Please let us know if you have any special Advent petitions. We will pray for them. And please pray for our preaching mission. Thank you.

Send tax deductible checks to:

"First Impressions"

Dominican Friars

3150 Vince Hagan Dr.

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Or: For a secure online donation (Via Credit Card, eCheck, or PayPal): Go to: www.preacherexchange.com/donations.htm and click on the appropriate link.

Thank you.


 

Second

Sunday

ADVENT

2017

Advent and Christmas are special times for us in the church because we celebrate God’s present and coming active presence in our lives. We were reminded last week to stay awake and alert to the Lord’s coming. "Be watchful! Be alert!" Jesus told his disciples (MK 13:33). Don’t the exclamation points convey a sense of urgency? Advent reminds us we will not see the presence of Christ already among us, and coming, unless we are alert and looking for him.

Today’s readings further that message. Not only are we to be alert, we must tend to our lives. Not only must we not doze our way through life, we must, as the Baptist proclaims in the desert, "make straight his paths."

John was echoing what the prophet Isaiah says to us today, "In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God." At this point I would look over my life, and the life of the world in which I live, to ask: "Where in my life is the ‘wasteland?’" How am I wasting my time and energies on frivolous pursuits and things? How do I waste my days in busyness, distractions and entertainment? What waste clutters my mind? How much of the resources of the planet do I waste and cast aside? What else would you add to your list of "waste" – wasted time, energy and resources?

Having dwelt in our own wasteland for these moments, we are ready to hear the wake-up call of the prophet. "In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God." Advent calls us to clean up our acts and straighten things up. It is not a time to bargain or convince God to act on our behalf. God is already well disposed towards us. The prophet is quite clear what God’s intentions are. God tells the prophet, "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated."

God is ready to act on our behalf, heal our wounds and forgive our sins. But while we can’t earn God’s pleasure towards us, it is always a given, what then can we do to prepare God’s way? What can we do to "wake up" to God’s coming?

The prophet suggests a road construction job. In ancient times when a dignitary or ruler would visit a city, the townspeople would fix the roads to make the royal person’s entrance smooth. What roadwork do we need to do this Advent? What valleys and empty places need filling in? What mountains, obstacles, to God in our lives, need leveling? What rough edges need smoothing?

If we tend to our "roadwork," Isaiah promises, "Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all peoples shall see it together." Glory is an important word in both testaments. The Hebrew for glory means "weight," or "importance." Applied to God it refers to God’s visible manifestations to humans. When we have such an experience of God we respond by giving glory to God. Experiencing God’s glory will transform us. Not only will we have the experience, but others will come to know God’s "weight and importance" through experiencing us.

There is a strong appeal in today’s readings to change. For example, Peter urges us to "conduct yourselves in holiness and devotion." The Baptist proclaimed, "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." When we hear the word "repent" we may not be moved by it. "After all," we might say, "I’m not a bad person." True enough. Aren’t we here at church, listening to God’s Word, praying and getting ready to receive Christ in his body and blood? Don’t we do our jobs faithfully and honestly? Aren’t we trying to be the best parents and grandparents we can be? Don’t we work hard at school and treat our friends fairly? We all have faults, for sure, but we’re basically good and decent people, doing our best. Our paths are pretty straight, our valleys not too deep, our mountains not too high.

But the Word of God these first weeks of Advent invites us to look more closely at our lives. The other day I moved some books on my bookshelf and saw the dust that had accumulated behind them since I last touched them That’s a lesson for my life. I need to move a few things around, make some adjustments and do some dusting. Isaiah said it in his way, "Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God." John the Baptist says it in his way, "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." In light of my book-moving experience we might say, "Do some dusting and straighten up this Advent"

The sins and missteps of "good people" like us aren’t very obvious until we take an opportunity to pause for a closer look. That’s what we do in Advent. Take a closer look at: our complacency at the evils around us; our smugness that sets us apart from others; our preoccupation with wants, especially during this buying season; our negativity and lack of gratitude for God’s many acts of kindness; our unwillingness to work with others to make changes in our world; our holding back from someone in need.

These are not listed in the 10 Commandments, but it’s Advent, take a look around. In your life what would you add to the list of valleys that need filling in; mountains that should be made low; and roads that need straightening? These might not make the list of "big sins," but they still call out for attention, as we prepare the way of the Lord?

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/121017.cfm

 

QUOTABLE

 

Let in the cold,

Let in the wet,

Let in the loneliness,

Let in the quick,

Let in the dead,

Let in the un-peopled skies...

Fearful is my virgin heart

And frail my virgin form,

And must I then take pity on the raging of the storm

That rose up from the great abyss

Before the earth was made,

That pours the stars in cataracts

And shakes this violent world?

Let in the fire,

Let in the power,

Let in the invading might...

Let in the wound,

Let in the pain,

Let in your child tonight.


----Kathleen Raine, "Northumbrian Sequence," COLLECTED POEMS, 1935-1980 (London: Allen and Unwin, 1981, 36-37)

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!

(Isaiah 40: 3)

This Sunday’s readings are all about preparation and not just any kind of preparation. No, we are to get ready for the coming of God’s Chosen One. What are we to do? Look at the last line of the responsorial Psalm 85:14, "Justice shall walk before him," and the second reading in 2 Peter where we look to a time when "righteousness dwells" and we are reminded that cultivating a disposition that leads to good action is another important way to get ready. This preparation requires us to be involved in works of justice and for us to practice an interior peace, kindness, and generosity that will transmit to others. But, we have so much to do…clean the house, trim the tree, buy the presents, cook the food…who has time for anything else? Perhaps, if this has a familiar ring, it is time to re-prioritize your life in Christ.

Here are some suggestions to "make way" for Christ by serving him in his guise of the poor and vulnerable and by participating in seeking a more just world:

1.Join one of these parish advocacy groups—Congregations for Social Justice, Justice for Immigrants, Respect Life, or Campaign Nonviolence

2.Walk in relationship with a disadvantaged person—Door Ministry, Gabriel Project, Habitat for Humanity, Prison Ministry, or Support Circles

3.Prepare food for those who you do not normally encounter—Catholic Parish Outreach, Family Promise, Helen Wright Center, or Moore Square/Oak City meals

4.For your children--have them collect clothing for underprivileged children--a Note in the Pocket. For smaller children--create a "kindness chain" to hang on your tree, adding a link for every kind thing they do someone between now and Christmas--these will be their gifts to the Christ child. (And your actions for a more just world will be your gifts!) All of our parish ministries can be found at www.raleighcathedral.org > parish > social justice.

If you are not familiar with the seven major themes of Catholic social teaching, spend part of your day and check out: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catholic-social-teaching/themes-of-catholic-social-teaching.cfm

----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 Isaiah reading:

In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!

Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be filled in,

every mountain and hill shall be made low

Reflection:

Advent invites us to clean up our act and straighten things up. It is not a time to bargain or convince God to act on our behalf. God is already well disposed towards us and will help us "Prepare the way of the Lord."

So we ask ourselves:

  • What valleys and empty places in my life need filling in?
  • What mountains and obstacles to God need leveling?
  • What rough edges need smoothing?

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:

  • Eric G. Lane #0667195 (On death row since 7/11/05)
  • Eddie Larmar Taylor #0762634 (8/24/05)
  • William H. Raines #0526698 (9/9/05)

----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/

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: 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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