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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

6th SUNDAY OF EASTER, -C- MAY 1, 2016

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Psalm 67; Revelation 21: 10-14, 22-23; John 14: 23-29

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

We are close to the end of the Easter season, yet the gospel finds us sitting with Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper. He speaking his, "Last Discourse" to them. What he says before he died is meant to sustain them. He promises that when he is no longer with them the Father will send the Holy Spirit in his name. The gift of the Spirit is the act that initiates and forms the church. Thereafter, Christ will be present to them in and through the church.

In the Book of Revelation the "new Jerusalem" is a symbol for the church. We don’t have to wait till the next life to be citizens of the "holy city Jerusalem." Through our baptism we are already part of the new heaven and new earth. As members of the new Jerusalem we await the final times when all creation will be restored and all people will be made members of the holy city. It will be a city of safety where all will be welcome; where God will be at home with us and we with God and one another.

People living in large cities can be the loneliest people. So many people; so many casual encounters leading nowhere. Our modern human condition can be isolated or, as Henry David Thoreau wrote, "Most men [sic] lead lives of quiet desperation." Contrast that experience with the promise Revelation offers. The author and visionary gives us hope that one day we will be permanent citizens in the holy city Jerusalem and we will live together in the light of God’s glory. "The glory of the Lord gave it light and its lamp was the Lamb."

Our gospel makes a similar promise, that believers will dwell in a permanent home with Christ and the Father. God will send the Holy Spirit to stay with us and deepen and sustain the memory of Christ in us. Our passage today is called, "the Farewell Discourse." The title alone has poignant undertones. Goodbyes with someone we have loved are never easy. Permanent goodbyes, which come with death, are the most difficult of all. What will we do? How will we carry on after a death, especially when the person who has died has been life itself for us? Isn’t that what the disciples were feeling as they heard Jesus’ words and took in their meaning?

Jesus is not insensitive to their fears and uncertainty, so he promises to leave them help. It is a help which all of us need as we await the fulfillment of the heavenly Jerusalem. Jesus promises the Advocate will come. So, not to diminish the sense of loss the disciples will feel when Jesus leaves them, the Advocate will continue his presence among them. They will grieve his loss, but the Advocate will sustain them.

What will bring peace to the disciples upon Jesus’ death? Their loss will be enormous. How will they come to know the peace Jesus tells them he is leaving them? Through the Advocate they will experience the very presence of God. That is how they will have peace – with and in God there is peace.

Knowing God is with us in all circumstances enables us to put our lives into God’s hands and receive the grace we need for our journey. Jesus tells the disciples, "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." The Spirit in our midst continues to teach us so that we need not be anxious – "troubled or afraid." In John, Jesus does not endure the agony in the Garden. That is because Jesus has the Advocate – the Spirit – instilling trust that God is with him and will never abandon him. He promises that same Spirit to his disciples as he departs. The Spirit will restore Jesus’ presence to the bereft, grieving disciples.

Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will come and "teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you." This "teacher" will stay with us and when we are in need will "teach... and remind us" of Jesus. The Spirit is the reminder of Christ’s presence in our midst. But not just a "head reminder," like remembering someone from our childhood – warm and fuzzy, but of no practical use now. Instead, thanks to the Spirit, our memory of Jesus is alive and reflected in our thoughts and actions. We can say we love Jesus, but if that love is not shown by concrete actions, it is just a sentimental expression with no real consequences in our lives.

Jesus and the Father come to dwell in those who keep Jesus’ word. In addition, just as the Father has sent Jesus to us, so the Father sends the Spirit who stirs up the mission of Jesus and sends us to do as he did: preach and heal in his name. The Spirit nurtures love in us and, through the wisdom the Spirit gives, we learn concrete ways to show that love. The Spirit, Jesus says, will remind us of him. This will have concrete consequences as we bear witness to the Word of God.

Jesus offers assurance to his disciples. How will they, who have been so dependent on him, carry out his mandate of love? He is leaving, but he tells them, "I am going away and I will come back to you." He will dwell with his followers, even before he returns at the end of time. Meanwhile, they will live with him, awaiting his return and following his word.

Some Christians expect and look for Jesus’ imminent return – the Second Coming. But each time we encounter the Word, we meet Christ. Then, through the Holy Spirit, we are able to understand who Jesus is for us today, what it means to be his follower and what he expects and helps us do in his name.

At this Eucharist we, like those disciples, are at table with the Lord. Here we break the bread and share the cup, just as the first community of believers did. Here the risen Christ tells us that if we love him we will keep his word in our minds, hearts, and actions. Christ is not with us as he was with his early disciples, but he is with us in a new way, a new presence.

NOTE: Some biblical readers say they are uncomfortable with the exclusive masculine language used for God. Jesus isn’t pointing to the gender of God by his use of "Father." Rather, he is drawing out the relationship of mutual love believers now have with God through Jesus.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050116.cfm

BOOK REVIEW


We have posted on our webpage a review of:

JESUS AND THE PRODIGAL SON – THE GOD OF RADICAL MERCY,

by Brian J. Pierce, O.P.

Go to: http://www.preacherexchange.com/index.htm and click on "Book Reviews."

QUOTABLE

"A genuine spirituality for the laity...would seem at first to be the opposite of what the classical spiritual writers call the ‘conversion to God’. Our times call for a ‘conversion to the world’. Too many people like to shy away from the world when they become reconverted to God. Too often they want to love God away from the stock exchange, courts of justice, factories, offices, or marts of trade."

Dennis Geaney, O.S.A. quoted in "Initiatives," May, 1998

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"May God have pity on us and bless us; may God’s face shine upon us."
Psalm 67: 2

There is a relatively new blog produced by the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development that I would like to recommend. It is called, "To Go Forth" and is inspired by Pope Francis. Each post is written by different people working in this field. The website is: www.togoforth.org

In this Year of Mercy, I find myself referring back to their 12/1/2015 posting called "5 Ways to Spiritually Prepare Yourself to Live Mercy in the Jubilee Year." Written by Jill Rauh, Assistant Director of Education and Outreach for this department, she gives 5 wonderful ways to enhance our spiritual journey. Because of space considerations for this column, I have abbreviated her suggestions a bit.

"1. Pray for awareness of God in your own life. Where is God’s grace present in your daily life. . .communities? Next, pray for awareness of how you are in need of God’s love and mercy. Where is there brokenness in your relationship with yourself, God, other people, and creation?

2. Pray with the Gospel. Mercy, Pope Francis says, is "the beating heart of the Gospel." Prayerfully read these parables devoted to mercy: the lost sheep (Lk. 15:1-7), the lost coin (Lk. 15:8-10), and the lost son (Lk. 15:9-32). Consider: What do these parables reveal about the Father’s attitude towards those who are lost?. . .How does it feel to be found or forgiven?. . .How does the Father extend mercy to the one who is lost? How have you practiced mercy towards those on the periphery? Open yourself to what God may be saying to you through these passages.

3. Encounter. We open ourselves to the Father’s mercy, Pope Francis writes, when we look "sincerely" into the eyes of our brothers and sisters—including those "who are denied their dignity." Who are you called to encounter? Perhaps it is an estranged family member or neighbor, or someone of a different culture, religion, socioeconomic status, or political viewpoint. Ask the Holy Spirit to prepare your heart to be open, your ears to listen, and your eyes to adopt Jesus’ gaze towards the "other."

4. Prepare to be merciful. Consider the spiritual works of mercy (counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead), and the corporal works of mercy (feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead). Which of each do you find easiest? Which do you find more difficult? Where do you need to grow?

5. We’re in it together. Individual acts are important, and our collective actions and decisions help create spaces for grace—or structures of sin. As a society, and in our laws and policies, where do we practice mercy? Where do we fail to extend mercy? In our families, parishes, schools, neighborhoods, towns, nation and world, to whom do we extend mercy? From whom do we withhold it? How does this help or hurt all of us?" http://togoforth.org/2015/12/01/5-ways-to-spiritually-prepare-yourself-to-live-mercy-during-the-jubilee-year/

Be merciful as God is merciful.

---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.

6th SUNDAY OF EASTER, -C- MAY 1, 2016

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Psalm 67; Revelation 21: 10-14, 22-23; John 14: 23-29

From today’s Gospel reading

Jesus said to the disciples:

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,

whom the Father will send in my name,

will teach you everything

and remind you of all that I told you.

Reflection:

Jesus and the Father come to dwell in those who keep Jesus’ word. The Father sends the Spirit who stirs up the mission of Jesus and sends us to do as he did: preach and heal in his name. The Spirit nurtures love in us and, through the wisdom the Spirit gives, we learn concrete ways to show that love.

So we ask ourselves:

  • What gifts have we received from the Spirit that we can put to the service of Jesus?
  • Are there gifts we need from the Spirit this coming Pentecost to enable us to live Jesus’ life more faithfully in the world?

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:

  • Leslie Warren # 0487180 (On death row since 10/6/95)
  • Darrell Strickland #0393145 (10/27/95)
  • Jerry Dale Hill #0511057 (10/31/95)

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

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the webpage of the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://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 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://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.

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,

St. Albert Priory

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

 


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