SUNDAY OF ADVENT (A) DEC. 11, 2016
1-6a, 10; Psalm 146; James 5: 7-10; Matthew 11: 2-11
AN END OF THE YEAR APPEAL
In our liturgical celebrations and daily prayer we frequently
pray for vocations.
I live in a novitiate community of the Southern Dominican
I can say that I have seen visible evidence that our prayers have
been heard, for we have three vibrant novices spending their first
year in the Order with us.
Please join us in praying for them as they discern their
"First Impressions" is a free weekly preaching ministry. If
you can help support this ministry, as well as help with the
training of our novices, we would appreciate it. 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.
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It’s hard when you’re in prison to know what’s going on outside
the locked gates and beyond the walls. A chaplain friend of mine was
visiting an inmate at San Quentin prison at his cell. The inmate had
been brought to the prison in the middle of the night and had not
seen any of the scenery around the prison. So he asked my friend,
"What’s on the other side of the walls?"
Using a felt tip pen and a scrap of paper, the chaplain drew a
rough map of the San Francisco Bay Area and with dots he indicated:
"Here’s San Francisco – here’s Oakland – this is where Angel Island
and Alcatraz islands are – here’s the Golden gate Bridge – and this
is the Richmond San Rafael bridge that you drove over at night
coming from Folsom Prison." The inmate thanked the chaplain for the
But, later as the chaplain drove back to the East Bay, and saw
the setting sun through the Golden Gate, and the low hanging pink
clouds, colored by the fading sun, he thought to himself, "The
inmate had some information about the Bay, but he had no idea what
the real thing was like, this beautiful Bay – the brilliant setting
There’s nothing like first-hand experience.
John the Baptist was locked up in prison. His blunt preaching had
made him powerful enemies, especially Herod, whom he had criticized
for committing adultery. As Jesus said about John: he was no swaying
reed in the wind; he wasn’t royalty dressed up, perched on a throne.
He was the messenger who was preparing Jesus’ way; the way of the
Messiah, with fiery rhetoric and hot warnings to repent.
John was confident and bold, but then got himself locked up and
now his hopes are locked up as well – closing down on him. From what
he has been hearing about Jesus, he’s beginning to have doubts – not
about the landscape outside his prison walls, but about the
landscape of this person Jesus. Jesus isn’t fiery, as John expected.
Nor is Jesus spewing warnings about God’s wrath.
John was a great preacher and prophet, but his expectation of the
coming Messiah didn’t fit Jesus. So, it’s as if John has a scrap of
paper and, from his prison cell, says to his visiting disciples,
"Here, write this down and ask Jesus, ‘Are you the one who is to
come or should we look for another?"’
John wanted someone who would turn the religious and political
order upside down; like a tidal wave, sweeping away the irreligious
and the corrupt. He wanted someone to come riding in as head of a
triumphant parade and proclaim God’s mighty kingdom.
Instead, the news funneling back to the confused, jailed and
fiery prophet of God, was that Jesus was eating with the tax
collectors who worked to collect taxes to support Rome. Jesus wasn’t
castigating and condemning sinners instead, he was sitting down to
meals with them and making God’s forgiveness easily available to
them – in John’s eyes, too easily available. Jesus was even
encouraging people to forgive their enemies – including their Roman
enemies! Things hadn’t worked out the way John expected and now he’s
locked up in prison facing death.
When John’s disciples arrive with their questions in hand, Jesus
doesn’t give direct answers. But he tells John’s disciples to go
back and give their own testimony about what they see and hear
around them: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are
cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have good
news preached to them.
Bottom line: Jesus was helping those in most need, those who
didn’t have anyone else to help them, or anyone who could help them.
Turns out, Jesus didn’t come, as John had hoped, to destroy the
wicked, but to restore them; to give them the possibility of a
second chance. Jesus was inviting the ignorant, the sinners and the
foolish back to God’s highway – the right way.
Even today, some people still take offense at the kind of Messiah
Jesus turned out to be. Some fundamentalists, perhaps even some of
us, want him to close the door on anyone different from themselves.
They consider themselves respectable and they have a long list of
those who shouldn’t make it in: people of other religions,
last-minute converts, gays, or even people like that prisoner at San
This is the season of expectation – Advent. It is a when children
and adults too, make lists of what they would like to receive for
Christmas. But Advent means more than that to us. We anticipate and
hope for renewal and deepening of our faith during this reflective
time – we are looking for the coming of Jesus to set us free:
-to give us sight where
we are blind
-to open our ears to what
we have been ignoring
-to cleanse us of the
past that weighs us down
-to make us good news to
the poor who need us.
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
PRAYER FOR PREACHERS
May God the Preacher bless you, entrusting you with the Word that
gives life and hope to a thirsty world. May you life bear witness to
this Word in you and may your proclamation of this Word echo in the
hearts of all those with whom you live and work. May even the
stranger know the passion of your commitment.
May God the Preacher be with you.
-----Maxine Shonk, OP, "Blessing Upon Blessing," (Spirituality
Newwork, Inc, Columbus, Ohio, 2010).
They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice
with joyful song.
Isaiah 35: 2
In his 2014 Gaudete Sunday homily, Pope Francis said that
Gaudete Sunday is known as the "Sunday of joy," and that
instead of fretting about "all they still haven't" done to prepare
for Christmas, people should "think of all the good things life has
given you." The Pope then said that Jesus wishes us to bring this
joy, these "glad tidings," to the poor: those with spiritual and
material needs, the many people who are anxious about family
problems (12/14/14). Having passed the midpoint of Advent, the
Church lightens the mood a little, and the priest may wear rose
vestments. The change in color provides us with symbolic
encouragement to continue our spiritual preparation for Christmas in
a joyful way.
Joy, humor and laughter are underappreciated values in the
spiritual life. Most of the saints were joyful disproving the
terrible stereotype of the grumpy, dour-faced saint. Consider Pope
Saint John XXIII, whose most famous joke came when a journalist
innocently asked him, "Your Holiness, how many people work in the
Vatican?" St. John replied, "About half of them." Then, there is the
story of St. Teresa of Avila who, in traveling to one of her
convents, was knocked off her donkey into the mud, injuring her leg.
"Lord, you could not have picked a worse time for this to happen.
Why would you let this happen?" And the response in prayer that she
heard was, "That is how I treat my friends." To which she replied,
"And that is why you have so few of them!"
Why do I bring up humor and joy in a justice column? Often, in
our ministries, we are witnessing or encountering sad stories of how
our disadvantaged fellow human beings struggle in their daily lives
and it can get to be overwhelming. Yet, in talking with them, we
sometimes laugh together about some common human foible and it
lightens the stress, even if just momentarily. We find our common
humanity in humor and we all end up more hopeful.
Pope Francis calls the God of Christmas, "a God who "shuffles the
cards" — he likes doing so! As Mary sings in the Magnificat,
it is the Lord who puts down the mighty from their thrones and
exalts those of low degree, who fills the hungry with good things
and sends the rich away empty" (12/20/15). It is hard not to see
God’s mischievous joy in upending what we humans’ value. When we
stop to examine our own lives, we see the many good things that have
been given. How wonderful to share from our abundance, bloom like a
flower, and rejoice with joyful song.
Molinari Quinby, MPS
Coordinator of Social
Justice Ministries Sacred Heart Cathedral--Raleigh, N.C.
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:
"Go and tell John what you hear and see:
The blind regain their sight, the lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear and the dead are raised,
And the poor have the good news proclaimed to them."
Advent is a season when children and adults anticipate Christmas
gifts. But Advent means more than that to us. We anticipate and hope
for renewal and deepening of our faith during this reflective
season. Like the people of Jesus’ time, we are looking for the
coming of Jesus to set us free.
So we ask ourselves:
- Do we anticipate meeting Jesus in our daily lives?
- In what area of our lives do we need him to set us free?
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:
- Michael Patrick Ryan #1033115 (On death row since 5/23/10)
- Andrew D. Ramseur #0972488 (6/8/10)
- Stephen Buckner #1062462 (11/8/2010)
----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the webpage of the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday
worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like
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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.
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and clicking on the "First Impressions"
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
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 email
Thank you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert Priory
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736
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