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December 10, 2023

Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11; Psalm 85;
2 Peter 3: 8-14; Mark 1: 1-8

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:


We are reaching out to you for help. If you are interested in numbers: our weekly e-mailings, "First Impressions," now go to almost 5,000 recipients. Our webpage, "Preacher Exchange," has had 11 million "hits" since last Advent. We have kept these Spanish and English 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. We can’t continue this service without your help – so will you?

Every day our community prays for our benefactors. And so you and your loved ones will be remembered at our daily Eucharist and prayer throughout the year.

Send tax deductible checks to:

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Thank you.

We have begun a new liturgical year. Mark will be our featured Gospel for most of the upcoming Sundays. We have posted an essay summarizing the themes in Mark entitled, "Preaching Mark." Go to: https://preacherexchange.com/ and click on "Preaching Essay."

I’m dating myself here.. When I was young breaking news, fires, earthquakes, war, etc., came by interruptions in our radio, or TV programs. Big news also made the front pages of newspapers (which left ink-stained fingers). Now we have apps that bring the latest news to our phone as it is happening. We can get it almost anywhere and anytime, even while we are out strolling in the park, or eating at a hamburger joint.

We are reminded by our gospel today that our faith began with breaking news. The medium for the message was John the Baptist. It started with a news event: God’s Word entered our world and took flesh. The gospel passage was not an advice column, or instructions for self-improvement. It was a newsworthy event, big news. If our Christianity has mellowed out and been reduced to habit, familiar patterns, bland expressions of faith and rote prayers, then we have forgotten our good-news-origins. Good news bring celebration, joy and changes everything. Are our words and actions marked by joy? If routine has taken over we need what Advent offers us. The Scriptures today point us in the right direction.

Today’s reading from Isaiah is from the section called Deutero-Isaiah (chapters 40-55), "Second Isaiah." The prophet announced the "breaking news" that the people’s exile was coming to an end. They had hoped for a new beginning and God was coming to fulfill their hopes. There is an Advent message in that for us, isn’t there? God would come out to help them and bring them home. The good news comes to them in the desert. Just when we are stuck in our own desert of fixed habits, discouragement, failed plans and "bad-news days," God sees our predicament. The prophet cries out, "Get Ready!" We aren’t left on our own after all. Isaiah has a message of consolation for us and a promise of a new start.

The people Isaiah is addressing had been ripped away from their homeland and more; they feel a sense of alienation from God. The first part of Isaiah made that message loud and clear: their sin brought on their suffering and exile. Like them, no matter what we have done and how distant we feel from God, we are not forgotten. The prophet is reminding the people that just as God once freed them from Egyptian slavery and led them through the desert, so God is going to do that again. What must they do? "Prepare the way of the Lord… Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God"."

But we modern, first-world readers, may not be feeling the same desperation and hopelessness those Jewish exiles felt. Quite the contrary. We may be quite comfortable and established in our modern Babylon. Still, the exile motif may apply. Our faith tells us we belong to a different reign. If we have conformed to the world in perspective and behavior then, in fact, we too are exiles. We are wanderers, comfortable in this world, but not at home in the reign of God.

This Advent can we hear the word that is addressed to us today? Do we see and can we name our exile: how we view that the world revolves around us – my needs and wants; my plans for the future? The world certainly enforces this self-centered way of thinking, but it is Advent. We are invited to repentance. Time to open our eyes and ears and shift away from our self-centered ways to God.

John the Baptist announces news we may have stopped hearing: Jesus is to be the center of our lives. Advent is our time to refocus. John was preaching a message of hope that would bring joy to his downcast listeners. But did you notice what he was wearing and eating? "John was clothed in camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey." (Ugh!) There is a message for us in his clothes and food. To accept the coming Christ into our world we need to refocus and trim our lives; less for ourselves, more for those in need. What trimming down must we do to be open to Christ’s coming and accept the broader world view he offers us?

The Romans built good roads. The military could go to scenes of trouble quickly. Their rulers also found those roads useful for moving around the Empire to establish, or maintain, their authority. The Roman authorities were preceded on those roads by messengers to alert the population to prepare to welcome the coming dignitary. John was that kind of messenger sent, not to announce the coming of a worldly power, but of One more powerful and important. John was a powerful preacher who drew crowds out to the wilderness to hear his mighty and hope-building preaching. But John was announcing the coming of One greater than he, or any worldly power.

The people didn’t have to do any physical road preparations for the coming of the One John was announcing. Rather, they were to smooth the road – the way to their hearts. Faith was the welcome sign for the One who was coming. Hearts were to turn away from all else and to God and the One coming to baptize with the Holy Spirit.

John redirects people’s attention away from himself to Jesus. There is an Advent practice for us: be less self-centered and more focused on Jesus and what his promised Spirit is calling us to be and do. Prayer will help us learn what change and re-emphasis Jesus is asking of us. That’s what this Advent can mean for us: prayer and listening – in a manner of speaking, a re-baptism with the Holy Spirit who will make us Advent people who have prepared a straight road for the coming Christ.

And Advent is the time we turn our weary soul to the One who can refresh us with the Holy Spirit. And who can’t use a reviving spirit these days as we look out at our war-drained world; diminished church participation; straying young people; political stalemates and rivalries, etc. John speaks to us who want to hope in God and have our spiritual hungers fed.

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


"Let us agree that we shall never forget one another. And whatever happens… remember how good it felt when we were all here together, united by a good and decent feeling, which made us better people, probably then we would otherwise have been"



". . .what sort of persons ought you to be"

. . .2 Peter 3: 11

There are strong words in today’s readings of the need to prepare. Both Isaiah and Mark speak of "preparing" for God’s coming. Indeed, Advent is the season of preparation. Our secular world seems to think that getting ready for Christmas means lining up your parties, preparing your home for company, dusting off a multitude of Christmas decorations, and shopping until exhaustion strikes. Our religious life seems squeezed.

In the Vatican II document, "Church in the Modern World" (#43), it is written: It is no less mistaken to think that we may immerse ourselves in earthly activities as if these latter were utterly foreign to religion, and religion were nothing more than the fulfillment of acts of worship and the observance of a few moral obligations. One of the gravest errors of our time is the dichotomy between the faith which many profess and their day-to-day conduct. As far back as the Old Testament the prophets vehemently denounced this scandal, and in the New Testament Christ himself even more forcibly threatened it with severe punishment. Let there, then, be no such pernicious opposition between professional and social activity on the one hand and religious life on the other."

Let’s contrast December’s frenetic activity with the last month of a pregnancy when a woman moves considerably slower, withdraws from unnecessary activity, and gives herself time to ponder what the child will be like who has made her belly so big. And so it should be for the growth of our spiritual lives in this month of expectation of the Lord’s coming.

So, how do we weave this special time and, ultimately, our lives into a seamless whole? For the laity, this season is a special challenge. Even our acts of social concern can become one more obligation on the checklist of things to do. Let us revisit that pregnant woman. Like the Mona Lisa, she has a secret. Eternal life is within her and she must nurture its presence. Imagine going through the month of December, where every activity is viewed as a nurturing encounter with the Divine—the things we do, the people we meet, the thoughts we have. Ponder this for a while and you will know the best way to deepen your Advent and life journey and what sort of person you ought to be.

Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS, Director

Office of Human Life, Dignity, and 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 take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God....

[This is what John the Baptist proclaimed]: "One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.


John the Baptist announces that the promises God made through the prophets are being fulfilled. It is, the Baptist tells us, "the beginning of the Good News." Jesus is coming to baptize with the Holy Spirit and a new way of life is being offered to people stuck in their sin and old patterns of living. While the gospel has a beginning, it has no ending, for it continues to be good news in each generation, offering those who hear it a new way of living, empowered by Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit to us

Advent is a time for dreaming big dreams, and so we ask ourselves:

  • What changes must I make in my ways of acting and my ways of thinking as I prepare for the Lord’s coming?
  • In what new places will I look for the arrival of the Lord this Advent?


"The death penalty is one of the great moral issues facing our country, yet most people rarely think about it and very few of us take the time to delve deeply enough into this issue to be able to make an informed decision about it."

– Sister Helen Prejean

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I am posting in this space several inmates’ names and locations. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know that: we have not forgotten them; are praying for them and their families; or, whatever personal encouragement you might like to give them. If the inmate responds, you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Wade Cole #0082151 (On death row since 6/14/1994)
  • Timothy Richardson #0492102 (6/1/1995)
  • Jeffrey Barrett #0021418 (6/1/1993)

----Central Prison

1300 Western Blvd

Raleigh, NC 27606

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

On this page you can sign "The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty." Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty: http://www.pfadp.org/


"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: https://www.PreacherExchage.com/donations.htm



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:

https://www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.


1. "HOMILIAS 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 J. Boll, O.P." <preacherexchange@att.net>

2. "VOLUME 2" is an opportunity for you to hear from the readers of First Impressions. To subscribe or Send your own reflections: Send them to "Fr. John J. Boll, O.P." <preacherexchange@att.net >  Your contributions to Volume 2 are welcome.

OUR WEBSITE: https://www.preacherexchange.com

Where you will find Preachers Exchange, which includes "First Impressions," "Homilias Dominicales," and "Volume 2" as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching and Scripture reflection.


Email "Fr. John J. Boll, O.P." <preacherexchange@att.net>