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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY (B) - December 28, 2014

Gen. 15: 1-6; 21:1-3; Psalm 105; Hebrews 11: 8, 11-12, 17-19; Luke 2: 22-40

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

AN END OF THE YEAR APPEAL

I am sure 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?

In our chapel we have a list of people we pray for daily. If you would like us to add a name, please let us know. And pray for us, as we do for you.

Send tax deductible checks to:

Attn: "First Impressions"

Dominican Friars

3150 Vince Hagan Dr.

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Or: For an online donation go to: www.preacherexchange.com/donations.htm

Thank you.



Some of my friends are all excited. Their daughter just gave birth to their first grandchild. They are already packing for the 250 mile car trip to see this newest member of their family. They can’t wait! The birth of a child is a big deal in families and among friends. There are parties to present the newest member. Lots of "oohs" and "aahs." There is also loving competition, "You’ve had him long enough, now it’s my turn." "Here, let me hold her!"

Things haven’t changed much in human history. While we might bring a child to be baptized, Luke tells us that, for Joseph and Mary, a devout Jewish couple with their first son, there was a presentation ritual at the Temple and a sacrifice to be made. The couple was poor and their offering was not a bull, lamb or goat, but the gift of the poor, two doves. There would be other worshipers in the Temple that day. They would have included in their prayers their longing for the Messiah to come and free them. Hadn’t the prophets promised that? Didn’t they need someone to rescue them from Roman oppression and keep hope alive in the God of their ancestors?

Those worshipers would have recalled the promise God made to Abraham and Sarah. When God appeared to Abram (later Abraham) he acknowledges his gratitude for the gifts God had given him. But there was a caveat. Those gifts would have only been temporary since the couple was childless. There would be no heirs, no future for the family. Then God makes a promise to Abram that his heirs would be as numerous as the stars in the night sky.

The exchange between God and Abraham is certainly low key. There is no burning bush; no lightning or thunder when God speaks. It is like a conversation two friends might have over coffee. Nevertheless, even though there are no fireworks and Abram and Sarah are advanced in age, Abram accepts the promise God made to him. He trusts God’s word and his faith in God is "credited to him as an act of righteousness." His faith puts him in right relationship with God.

The second part of the story confirms that Abram’s faith bore fruit, the couple have a son. This son will be a sign of God’s promise to the couple that their descendants would be as numerous as the stars. Throughout their history faithful Jews waited for their hope in God to be fulfilled. Like Abraham, they trusted in the one who made a promise. Today’s feast celebrates God’s faithfulness and the fulfillment of God’s promise. Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars, just as God promised. But there is a surprise in the fulfillment. The one who would fulfill this promise, the first of God’s many children, enters the Temple with his poor parents and is barely noticed.

A devout Jewish couple present their child to God. Who could have guessed that this was the one that people had longed for? How easily he could have been missed. He almost was – amid the priests offering animal sacrifices, the Pharisees teaching the children, the din of the terrified animals and the money changers. If anyone drew attention in the Temple that day they would have been the distinguished priests and the wealthy, who were well-dressed and up front. How easily the child, along with his poor parents, could have been missed.

Except he wasn’t missed by everyone. There were the elderly Simeon and Anna, the aged sentinels who wouldn’t give up on God, because they believed God would never give up on them. What an inconspicuous group they were: the parents, the child and two elderly, prayerful people.

Pope Francis has said that children and the elderly represent two poles of life and are the most vulnerable and most often forgotten groups. He also said a society that abandons children, or marginalizes its elderly members shows the failure of that society. He wasn’t just talking about the poorest nations, not with 14 million children in this country going to bed hungry. Not with 3.8 million senior Americans living below the poverty line who are further affected by unexpected health care costs and the need for shelter in harsh weather. Most of the elderly poor are women, who have received low wages because of wage discrimination. Nearly one in five single, widowed or divorced women over 65 is poor.

It’s a biblical theme: the least in society are the ones God is most concerned about and calls us to be attentive to. The two elderly in today’s gospel focus our attention – Simeon the vigilant and Anna, the prophet. They recognize what God is doing and speak out openly about it.

Because of our baptism we are the temples God visits and where God dwells. When the Lord comes suddenly to our temple will we recognize him? Will we make room for him? Will we change for him? Who can help us discover the surprising emergence of God into our lives? Judging from today’s gospel, devout and faithful seniors can help.

It’s a good day to celebrate the seniors in our lives who have helped us come to know Christ. They are the sentinels who, through years of faithful service, have kept their focus and helped open our eyes. They are the wisdom figures in our family and among our friends – parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, and senior friends and acquaintances.

In parishes they teach classes and prepare children for the sacraments; they organize and deliver food to the sick; they bring communion to shut-ins; care for grandchildren and teach them their prayers. They are in our temples – parish churches and chapels. They bring flowers and prepare the altar for Mass; answer the phones in the parish office; count the collection on Monday mornings; are members of the bereavement committee; make up the Lector and Eucharistic ministers’ assignment sheets and much, much more.

We don’t want to miss God’s subtle entrance into our lives. We are thankful at this Eucharist for the Annas and Simeons who have helped us keep our eyes and ears open to recognize when the light of Christ has come into our temple.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122814.cfm

QUOTABLE


To choose what is difficult all one’s days

As if it were easy, that is faith Joseph, praise.

---W.F. Auden, Fire for the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio
 

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

Four year-old Margaret loved her picture of the Holy Family. There it hung low on the wall within her reach, and every night she gave it a resounding kiss before she got into bed. One night, just as she was all settled in bed and her mother was giving her the final tucking in, "I gotta get up! I forgot!"announced Margaret. Covers flew, as she wriggled out of bed and pattered over to her beloved picture, giving it a loud smack. Back in bed she settled herself contentedly, looked up at her mother and remarked with a deep sigh, "They’re such lovely people!"—source unknown

Saint Pope John Paul II states in his "Gospel of Life" (1995), that "God in His deepest mystery is not a solitude, but a family…" In the Holy Family, we have been given a picture of the God, who is a family, in which to model our own families.

Pope Francis goes on to state, "[T]he ‘home’ represents the most precious human treasures, that of encounter, that of relations among people, different in age, culture and history, but who live together and together help one another to grow. For this reason, the "home" is a crucial place in life, where life grows and can be fulfilled, because it is a place in which every person learns to receive love and to give love." http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2013/may/documents/papa-francesco_20130521_dono-di-maria.html

"Sadly, this is often not the case, as the number of broken and troubled families is on the rise, not simply because of the weakening sense of belonging so typical of today’s world, but also because of the adverse conditions in which many families are forced to live, even to the point where they lack basic means of subsistence. There is a need for suitable policies aimed at supporting, assisting and strengthening the family!" http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/speeches/2014/january/documents/papafrancesco_20140113_corpo-diplomatico_en.html

Here in Wake County, we have a unique program to strengthen families known as Support Circles. As part of the city’s commitment to end homelessness and coordinated by Catholic Charities, parishioners commit to a one-year walk in relationship with a poor, struggling family. I urge you that if you want to understand better the lives of the poor, if you want to put a face on poverty, commit to walk with a family. Not only will you help alter the trajectory of their lives, you might just change the trajectory of your own. Contact Barbara at socialconcern@sacredheartcathedral.org . Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more of our parish family embraced the larger community in this way? What an image of God that would be!

----Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Coordinator of Social Justice Ministries Sacred Heart Cathedral--Raleigh, N.C.

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 Gospel reading:

Simeon... was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel and the Holy Spirit was upon him....

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.

Reflection:

Let’s celebrate the seniors in our lives who have helped us come to know Christ. They are the wisdom figures in our family and among our friends – parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, and senior friends and acquaintances. They are the sentinels who have kept their focus and helped open our eyes to God’s entrance into our lives.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Can we name specific older Christians who have been our wisdom figures?
  • What can we do to show them our appreciation?

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"The use of the death penalty cannot really be mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick

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:

  • Ryan G. Garcell #0775602 (On death row since 4/4/2006)
  • George T. Wilkerson #0900281 (12/20/2006)
  • Eugene Williams #0441044 (5/1/2007)

----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the webpage of the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://www.catholicsmobilizing.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 the above email address.

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://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.

(These CDs have been updated twice in the last five years.)

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 Or jboll@preacherexchange.org.

3. Our webpage: http://www.preacherexchange.com

Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilias 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.

St. Albert Priory

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626

 


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