to Lent. It is a season that has developed from the earliest days of
Christianity. Initially there was a pre-Easter fast. Later fast grew
to 40 days. During the same time the church developed extended
initiation processes for catechumens, those preparing for baptism at
Easter. For centuries there were these two movements: a communal
penitential aspect and preparation for baptism at the Easter
As centuries passed the emphasis shifted away from the more
public ecclesial preparations for Easter to a focus on individual
practices. Vatican II called for a return to themes of baptism and
communal conversion through hearing the Word of God. We journey
through Lent encouraged by our catechumens (and candidates
hoping for full communion). Their desire to join our community of
faith gives us hope for our future and reminds us of the treasures
we have received through our baptism.
Lent will turn our hearts and minds to Easter, but will also keep
Pentecost before us – not just as a singular feast, but the event of
the Spirit’s permanently coming to dwell among us. In fact, Luke’s
narration of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert begins by reminding us
that it was the Spirit that led Jesus into the desert. That Spirit
never left him during his temptations, through his entire ministry,
death on the cross and resurrection.
Lent is not a sealed capsule, just a 40-day time of strict
observance. Rather, the catechumens in our parish remind us we are
also in a process of enlightenment. The Spirit of Pentecost is
already with us through this communal period of renewal. Throughout
our Lenten observances the Spirit will help us turn from sin,
receive new life at Easter and then, as it was for the gathered
disciples at Pentecost, the Spirit will drive us out to be witnesses
to Christ’s life, death and resurrection.
The Deuteronomy reading awakens our memory. Our Judeo-Christian
tradition is rooted in historical events. When Moses gathered the
people he reminded them of the wonderful things God had done by
delivering them from slavery in Egypt. By the community’s recalling
God’s actions on their behalf in the past, each new generation would
be united together in celebration. Memory of God’s powerful acts
would also give the people hope during present trials. If God once
came to their aid then God can again help them in present
After Moses reminds the people of God’s marvelous actions they
bring gifts to the altar to express their gratitude and rededication
to God. Which is what we do again at each Eucharist. First, we hear
the Word of God and recall God’s saving acts through Jesus Christ.
Then we bring our gifts of bread and wine to the altar, symbolizing
our gratitude for what God has done and our rededication to our
active and present God.
In his letter to the Romans Paul proclaims the heart of the Good
News. Like Moses he refreshes our memory and reminds us of what God
has done for us in Jesus Christ. After hearing "the word of faith"
we come to the altar with our gifts. They represent our
We could read Luke’s account of Jesus’ temptations in the desert
as a once-and-for-all event. That, after he passed the hurdles
proposed by the tempter, he got on with his mission. As if to say,
"That’s that. What’s next?" But another way to see the temptation
account is as Luke’s way to summarize the temptations Jesus faced
throughout his life, all the way up to the cross.
He would be tempted to use his powers to take care of himself,
prove his identity by performing astounding signs and make alliances
with political and military powers to get himself and his message
across. A clue that Jesus faced temptations more than once in the
course of his ministry was what happened on the road to Caesarea
Philippi. When he spoke to his disciples about his upcoming
persecution and death Peter wanted none of that and Jesus silenced
him, "Get behind me Satan…." This time the tempter was one of his
intimates, Simon Peter.
It is encouraging to know that Jesus not only shared our human
nature but, like us, was subject to temptations. In the course of
our daily lives we too face temptations to put comfort and material
possessions over the sacrifices involved in being a disciple. We get
sidetracked and lose sight of what and who are important in our
lives. None of our ordinary experiences at home, work, and
recreation seem to be without basic temptations to our identity as
Christians and our relationship with God.
Remember that Vatican II shifted the focus of Lent back to a
strong emphasis on baptism and communal conversion. Luke continually
emphasizes the role of the Spirit throughout Jesus’ life. Through
our baptism we, the church, also experience the Spirit. The Spirit
strengthened Jesus when he was tempted and endured trials and the
Spirit also helps us resist evil and turn our attention away from
our own interests to serve human need wherever we meet it.
We hear the Word of God and remember God’s wonderful acts on our
behalf. Then, symbolized by the bread and wine, we offer ourselves
again at the altar. Through the work of the Holy Spirit our gifts
and our lives are transformed into the body and blood of the Lord.
Nourished by God in Word and Sacrament we leave our celebration to
return to our world and receive help overcoming the daily
temptations and trials that attempt to draw us away from our lives
dedicated, through baptism, to our God and neighbor.
Almighty God, restore the dignity of our human
long disfigured by excess but now
restored by the
discipline of self denial.
—Missal of Pius V
What does Scripture say? "The word
is near you, in your mouth and in your heart"
Romans 10: 8
I find it such a lovely coincidence that
Valentine’s Day this year falls on Sunday when we gather to be with
our God of love and mercy. Every time that we practice being loving
and merciful to those who are "other," we are a sign to a world that
seeks to divide us. In the USCCB document, "Called and Gifted:
The American Catholic Laity" (1980), the bishops write at the
conclusion: "The Church is to be sign of God’s kingdom in the world.
The authenticity of that sign depends on all the people: laity,
religious, deacons, priests and bishops. Unless we truly live as the
People of God, we will not be much of a sign to ourselves or the
world." As it is said, it is easy to love those who love you. Our
challenge, as Christians, is to take the step outside our comfort
zone, to learn to see as God sees and to love as God loves.
Have you ever thought about what it was that
ignited the spiritual fire of the first Christians? They lived in a
time when the rich and the powerful dictated their status in life.
Along comes Jesus teaching them about sacred selfhood and how they
are loved by God with mercy and tenderness; a God who creates
everyone in God’s own image, a God who looks upon humanity and calls
each, "my child." What would it take to re-capture these words and
make them real in your life today?
Here you sit on this First Sunday of Lent. Will
this just be a Lenten journey where you go through the motions of a
faith grown used to a grocery list of obligations? Or, will you take
ownership of your faith journey and stretch yourself beyond your
parameters and seek to discover God in yourself and others. We have
so many beautiful outreach ministries here at Sacred Heart that
present the perfect opportunity this Lenten season to try a new
spiritual path, an offering of your life to live in a world that is
in dire need of love and mercy.
On this Valentine’s Day, on this day when we come
together in a weekly communion with God, we need to internalize Pope
Francis’ words: "Mercy is the heart of God. It must also be the
heart of the members of the one great family of his children: a
heart which beats all the more strongly wherever human dignity – as
a reflection of the face of God in his creatures – is in play. Jesus
tells us that love for others – foreigners, the sick, prisoners, the
homeless, even our enemies – is the yardstick by which God will
judge our actions."
The word is as close as your heart…happy
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:
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
tempted by the devil.
Jesus not only shared our human nature but, like us, was subject
to temptations. In the course of our daily lives we also face
temptations to put comfort and material possessions over the
sacrifices involved in being a disciple. We get sidetracked and lose
sight of what and who are important in our lives.
So we ask ourselves:
- What are our priorities; who and what are
important in our lives?
- How to do express those priorities by the
choices we make each day?
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:
- Eddie C. Robinson #0347839 (On death row since 5/10/92)
- Carl Moseley #0294214 (10/1/92)
- Nathan Bowie #003956 (2/5/93)
----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:
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax
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Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage
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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
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:
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 at the above
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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