AN END OF THE
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gospel passage comes right after the Prologue to John’s
Gospel. "In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with
God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). Today’s passage moves
to the very concrete. We meet "a man named John." While Luke
describes the circumstances of his birth to the elderly
couple Zachariah and Elizabeth, John’s Gospel presents the
grownup Baptist already preaching and baptizing near the
John, the first human we meet in John’s Gospel, is
immediately identified as "sent from God… to testify to the
light." John is a recipient of the light and that is his
identity: he is one sent to share what he has received with
others. He is not described as the baptizer, or prophet, but
as a "witness." It is a term used more than 30 times in
John’s Gospel. "Witness" is derived from the ancient Greek "martyria,"
from which we get our word "martyr." We have an early hint
in this gospel, which is further spelled out in the
Synoptics, how John will meet his fate. He will be martyred
for witnessing to the light God has sent into the world.
John’s fate is also a hint to the opposition those who
follow the Light of the world will meet. By our baptism we,
like John, are called to be witnesses to the
If the preacher were to stand before the congregation
today and ask, "Who will be a witness to Christ?" – all of
us baptized should raise our hands. But to give witness
means we have first witnessed the events we are giving
testimony to. What kind of witness shall we be? It depends
on how well we have come to personally know Jesus. Where and
how do we see and hear him in our lives? We experience him
today in the Word and Sacrament; and in the teachings of our
church; in our faith community; among the poor and outcast.
As Christmas draws closer and we hear the story of the Holy
Family’s flight into Egypt we are reminded that Christ is
also found among displaced refugees and exiles. We also meet
the Word in the world of nature, the arts and in our quiet
times of prayer. In these and many other places, the light
pierces the darkness of our world. Like John, we are then to
be voices that prepare for the coming of Christ.
One of the most direct ways of witnessing to our faith in
Christ is by talking about it. Perhaps Catholics are the
shyest believers when it comes to "giving witness." Surely
we can find ways to do that without being confrontational,
or "in the face" of people. How could I be a "voice" that
prepares for Christ’s coming? – by witnessing to my faith in
my church community through active participation in parish
and diocesan ministries; being part of my civic community’s
efforts to help the poor, abused, uneducated and migrant;
speaking up for the unborn, terminally ill, and those
condemned to die; protesting violence towards minorities,
Muslims and the undocumented; loving our enemies and being a
voice for God’s beloved creation. What would you add to that
We are reminded that, as John was a witness to Christ’s
coming, witnessing to Christ has its costs. Remember,
"witness" in the Scriptures is derived from the word for
martyr. John was "martyria" and so are we to be. Most likely
we will not meet severe reactions to our witnessing in
Christ’s name. In our society people will probably give a
light listening and then ignore us, or call us naïve. Still,
our job description as Christians is to give witness to
others and suffer the consequences, being treated severely,
or just being shrugged off.
It is always hard to witness to Christ, but especially in
this consumer-oriented season. When people ask us what we
want for Christmas would we suggest a donation to a
favorable charity? Or, how about chickens, ducks, or goats
for poor people in developing countries? Check the Heifer
International webpage for meaningful Christmas giving. It is
going to feel strange to ask for goats for Christmas, but
that might be a concrete way to witness to the light of
Christ in the world – a light which pierces the darkness and
illumines the face of the poor to us.
We come to worship in the midst of Advent. Just by our
coming here we are witnessing to the light. We have made a
statement about the importance of Jesus in our lives and,
like John the Baptist, we’re not preoccupied with ourselves,
but are focused on Christ. Or, at least, we are trying to
focus on him and being here, in our community of prayer, is
one more step to our turning towards the true light who is
coming into the world.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
It is an adult Christ that the community
encounters during the Advent and Christmas
cycles of Sunday and feasts: a Risen Lord who
invites sinful people to become the church.
Christmas does not ask us to pretend we were
back in Bethlehem, kneeling before a crib; it
asks us to recognize that the wood of the crib
became the wood of the cross.
—Nathan Mitchel, quoted in, LITURGY WITH
STYLE AND GRACE by Gabe Huck and Gerald T.
Chinchar. (Archdiocese of Chicago, Liturgy
Training Publications, 1998, page 97. Paper,
proclaims: I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is
the joy of my soul.--61:10
Mary proclaims: My soul proclaims the greatness of the
Apostle Paul proclaims: Rejoice always.--1
Pope Francis calls this third Sunday of
Advent, the Sunday of Joy. After two weeks of anticipating
and preparing, we pause to rejoice in the promise of God’s
Isaiah writes about the joy experienced by being clothed
with a robe of salvation and wrapped in a mantle of justice
to bring glad tidings to the lowly and to heal the broken
hearted. The early Christians saw this as Jesus’ mission and
this should be our mission as well. There is no greater joy
than doing God’s work.
Mary fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 showing that
the Messiah, the hope of Israel and the glory of the house
of David, implies by his very name "Immanuel", or "God with
us", the Divine presence among the people. Christ present
among us is our first and greatest gift, source of our hope
Paul’s words to "rejoice always" implies sharing. I do
not know of anyone who has experienced a joyful occurrence
and kept it to themselves. How much greater then when
contemplating God dwelling with us? John the Baptist
declares to the priests and Levites that Jesus is already
among them though they have no recognition (John 1: 26).
There should be no such thing as a gloomy Christian if we
keep God dwelling with us in mind. Set aside some time to
ponder, like Mary, at what this indwelling means in your
life. Where do you see Jesus already in your midst in
others? Be Jesus to others and see Jesus in others.
At Christmas time, opportunities abound to be the good
news. We have only to look at the prophet who rejoiced in
being wrapped in the mantle of justice. What work of justice
can you accomplish this week? Name one just and noble cause
that you feel God is calling you to offer a response. Or,
from a myriad of causes that you have never addressed,
choose one that you will promote in the coming year and give
that as your gift to the Christ child.
Fill this week with all that is joy-filled. Rejoice
Molinari Quinby, MPS
Social Justice Ministries
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
From today’s Gospel reading:
man named John was sent from God.
came for testimony to testify to the light,
that all might believe through him.
Like John the Baptist, our job description as Christians
is to give witness to Jesus, the Light of the world. And
like him, we may have to suffer the consequences of our
witnessing – being treated severely, or just being ignored
and shrugged off.
So we ask ourselves:
- How am I a "voice" that prepares for Christ’s
- How have I had to suffer when I have given witness
of my faith to others?
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."
This season is especially difficult for most inmates.
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
Please write to:
- George Thomas Wilkerson #0900281 (On death row since
- Eugene J. Williams #0441044 (5/1/2007)
- Byron Lamar Waring #1025501 (7/2/2007)
----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:
"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
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
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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
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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.
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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