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 Province, USA.
I can say that I have seen visible
evidence that our prayers have been heard for we have two vibrant
novices spending their first year in the Order with us.
Please join us in praying for them as
they discern their vocations.
If you are able, will you also consider
a donation to help support these, our future preachers and
"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
Send tax deductible checks to:
Attn: "First Impressions"
3150 Vince Hagan Dr.
Irving, Texas 75062-4736
Or: For an online donation go to:
It’s Advent – a season of hope. It’s a
time when we hold our dreams for renewal and reinvigoration close to
our hearts. The Scriptures chosen for the season help us keep hope
fresh; guide us to look in the right places for our dreams taking
flesh. So, why did the designers of our a lectionary choose today’s
gospel, a tale of disappointed hopes?
John the Baptist has been arrested for
speaking out against Herod’s relationship to his sister-in-law
Herodias. He’s in prison after his successful desert preaching about
"the one who is coming." Last week’s gospel (3:1-12) told of his
preaching, the excited crowds and his criticisms of the religious
Even though John is in prison one would
think he would at least have a feeling of satisfaction, even
delight, over Jesus’ appearance, preachings and healings. Instead,
sitting in Herod’s prison, John is showing signs of doubt. He
preached about the coming Messiah and the appearance of the kingdom
of heaven. But the message wasn’t a cheery one; it was about God’s
coming wrath. Evildoers would be cast into the fire God had prepared
for them (3:10).
We can appreciate the excitement and
relief those hearing John’s message must have had. Finally, God was
going to straighten things out: the Roman oppressors would be
expelled, and the religious leaders, who collaborated with them,
would be punished. The good people would be gathered into God’s
community – the kingdom of heaven. John put it more vividly: the
anticipated one would come with winnowing fan in hand. "He will
clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but
the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire" (3:12).
Hearing about Jesus while he was
sitting in prison, John might have asked: "So, where’s the winnowing
fan? Where’s the unquenchable fire fueled by those evildoers? Wasn’t
the messiah’s arrival supposed to be about final judgment, along
with salvation? John also might have wondered, "If Jesus is the
Messiah and I am his forerunner, what am I doing here in prison? Why
doesn’t he come to set me and other prisoners free? Why isn’t he
bringing down God’s wrath on these villains?"
People of faith, who are the stressed
from illness, family problems or oppression, might share John’s
confusion. Isn’t God supposed to be on the side of the good? Has God
come to save us? If not from the evil forces of the world – then
from what? We travel with John’s disciples, who probably shared his
confusion, to Jesus and ask, "Are you the one in whom I should put
my trust? Are you the one to whom I should give my life and whose
way I should follow? Are you my savior, and if you are, from what
are you saving me?"
Jesus doesn’t give a theoretical
answer. Instead, he points to tangible evidence of what he has done
and said and leaves it up to John and his followers to draw their
own conclusions, "Go tell John what you hear and see…"
We can appreciate why those who
designed the lectionary chose today’s first reading. Isaiah
anticipated a time when the desert would bloom with life – a wonder
to behold for people living in dry terrain – and when those
suffering infirmities would be healed. Isaiah is receiving his work
orders: he is to announce this good news to those who suffer, the
feeble, weak and frightened of heart. He is to speak to those exiled
from their homeland. The first signs that their deliverance is at
hand would be that lifeless nature will abound with fruit. Isaiah
makes it sound as if God is set to re-create the world.
Those who perceive these signs of God’s
coming need not be frightened as one might be in the presence of
God’s manifestations. The prophet encourages, "Be strong, fear not!"
God’s faithful ones have nothing to fear when God, the vindicator,
Isaiah’s promise and Jesus’ response to
John’s disciples, are linked. The prophet’s vision is that the
infirmed would be healed: blind will see, deaf ears will hear, the
lame will walk and the mute speak. People believed that God made
everything perfect, so any lacking or disorder in nature or humans,
was somehow a result of our sins. Hence, when the Messiah came
nature and humans would be put back "in good working condition." Sin
would no longer have debilitating effects on all God’s creatures.
God’s coming would save the people by restoring us to God’s original
intention and design at creation. What do humans have to do to earn
this restoration? Nothing, but have need for it and then desire it.
Advent expresses this longing and waiting for restoration.
Jesus’ answer to John’s disciples then
is very intentional and reflects today’s Isaiah text. Can John and
we accept that Jesus’ role is not to overturn by force, but to use
his powers to persuade by healing and by even forgiving his enemies?
John is alone in prison facing death.
The picture John painted in his preaching of the coming one is
radically different from the nature of Jesus’ ministry. John had
questions to pose to Jesus. When his disciples returned with Jesus’
answer would he be able to let go of what he, and many others,
expected from the messiah and accept the Christ who-has-come?
Advent is our time of waiting for the
coming of Christ. But what do we anticipate when he enters our lives
anew? What kind of person are we expecting? What service shall we do
in his name in the world? How will our prayer be affected by
Christ’s new presence when he arrives? How will our relationships be
affected by Christ’s life renewed in us this Advent?
Jesus’ estimation of John is high. He
is no reed blown hither and yarn by the wind, adapting to public
opinion and the crowd’s expectations. John, Jesus tells us, is a
prophet and more. His prophetic role was to announce the coming of
the one all the prophets anticipated. John holds an esteemed place
in the history of salvation as he opens the door for us into a new
Still, Jesus says, as great as John
was, "the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." But
who among us could measure up to John’s intense dedication to doing
God’s will? Who could be as a resolute, even in the face of
opposition and death, to telling the truth? Which preacher among us
could draw crowds to our preaching the way John did? How could we
members of the kingdom, especially the least, be greater than John
John’s task was to be the precursor of
God’s anointed One. He was a voice crying out in the desert,
"Prepare the way of the Lord." But while he announced Jesus’ coming,
he did not become a follower of the way. He was a transition to the
new age, but did not belong to it himself. John, who came before
Jesus, must now learn to follow after him.
The least, in Matthew’s Gospel, are all
the simple ones who hear and eagerly accept the invitation to follow
Christ. Before God these are the great ones, doing exactly what God
hoped for both Jews and Gentiles. The believing community of
disciples now are the messianic people. We are the least in the
kingdom and still, are called to do what Jesus told John’s disciples
to do, "Go and tell… what you hear and see."
In our liturgical tradition today was
called, "Gaudete Sunday" – "Rejoice Sunday." We are halfway through
Lent and we pause to catch our breath. The Scriptures paint a
picture for us of our goal; of a time when nature and humans will
dwell in a kingdom of harmony and peace. It’s a promise God has made
and Jesus revealed to us: the beginnings of that new way of living
he called the kingdom of heaven. We keep his vision of the peaceable
kingdom before us even as we struggle with what is so incomplete in
our lives and in the world.
Death has been overcome. We look
forward to an end to pain, mourning and death forever. We rejoice
because even now our faith enables us to experience something of the
life that awaits us. Now we can discern what is barren and filled
with false promises and recognize what we must embrace that has
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s
fingers seamed in sweet potato dirt
migrant farm workers
out new hundred dollar bills
U.S. Postal Service
those bills across Mexico,
have shoes and notebooks for school
and a chicken on Sunday
Grandmother gets new teeth
wives smile at husband memories.
announcing that this birth counts
someone can be counted on
money orders fly
filaments of faith
Sr. Evelyn Mattern
PREPARED FOR THE NEW LITURGICAL
We have prepared two CD’s for the
upcoming liturgical Year A, which begins in Advent.
"First Impressions: Liturgical Year A." Contains three reflections for almost all the
Sundays and major feasts of the year. It also has book reviews and
additional essays related to preaching.
"First Impressions: Liturgical Years A,
B and C." Contains reflections
on the three-year cycle. To order go to:
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
The desert and the
parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.—Isaiah
"Rejoice!" I say, "Rejoice!" The third
Sunday of Advent, so called from the first word of the Introit at
Mass (Gaudete, i.e. Rejoice), calls upon the faithful to
worship and hail with joy, "The Lord who is now nigh and close at
hand." While our attitude during Advent is one of preparation,
penance, and expectation, this Sunday’s liturgy symbolizes that
the promised redemption / salvation should never be absent from the
heart of the
Many Christians have reduced
"salvation" to assurance of a blessed afterlife with God. However,
if we look at biblical words translated as "salvation," we find that
they convey meanings of healing, wholeness, and right relationships.
The human person is capable of acting on these three meanings of
salvation. As Isaiah points out, salvation begins on this earth.
One of the best ways we can make a
difference and bring about a bit of salvation is to advocate on
behalf of the poor and against unjust situations. Here are some
avenues: 1.Congregations for Social Justice (CSJ) is a
coalition of Raleigh faith communities committed to advocating for
public policies that create a better Raleigh for all people by
working for social justice in solidarity with our most vulnerable
neighbors. Contact Sandy Peace at
2. Justice for Immigrants (JFI)
primary objectives are to educate the public, especially the
Catholic community, about Church teaching on migration and
immigrants; to work for positive immigration reform; to enact
legislative and administrative reforms based on the principles
articulated by the bishops; and to organize Catholic networks to
assist qualified immigrants obtain the benefits of the reforms.
Contact Margi Keating at
3. Catholic Voice NC operates
under the authority of the state's two Catholic Bishops. The bishops
are kept apprised of legislative matters before the General Assembly
and the U. S. Congress. When the situation warrants, the bishops
inform Catholic Voice NC participants, via an e-mail alert, of an
important matter. Participants are often asked to contact their
elected representatives to ensure that a Catholic viewpoint is taken
As you light the third Advent candle,
reflect on what you can do to heal, to bring to wholeness, and to
create right relationships. Then, rejoice in the God who is coming
to be with us and who saves us by showing us how to live.
-----Barbara 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
From today’s Gospel reading:
When John the Baptist heard in prison of
the works of the Christ
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this
"Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?"
Can John the Baptist and we accept that
Jesus’ role is not to overturn by force, but to use his powers to
persuade by healing and by even forgiving his enemies?
So we ask ourselves:
- How and where have we been
looking for Christ this Advent?
- In what new ways has he come
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:
- Stephen Buckner #1062462 (On
death row since 11/8/2010)
- Timothy Harford, Jr.
- Tony. S. Summers #0395658
----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
"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.
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,
Make checks payable to:
Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online
1. We have compiled Four CDS for
- 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
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
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.
Thank you and blessings on your
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert Priory
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736