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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

PENTECOST -B- May 24, 2015

Acts 2: 1-11; Ps. 104; I Cor 12: 3b-7, 12-13; John 20: 19-23

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

The disciples were gathered together to celebrate one of the three major festivals in the Jewish calendar, Pentecost (Shavyot), which occurred 50 days after Passover. It was a thanksgiving festival celebrating the first fruits of the spring harvest. In New Testament times the Jews also celebrated at Pentecost the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. The Law was God’s gift to the people to direct them to becoming a great nation, a light to the other people. God intended the Jews to be a sign to the nations of God’s.

On Pentecost we Christians celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples – the birth of the Church. The Spirit is also God’s gift to us, but not just for our personal sanctification. When the Spirit came the enclosed disciples burst out of the house to preach to the gathered "devout Jews from every nation under heaven." What could possibly have changed the simple, huddled folk from rural Galilee into the witnesses who would "astound and amaze" those drawn by the excitement?

Bible readers will recall another moment in the Scriptures when the wind ("ruah") animated the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel (37:9-14). The wind that raised up those bones was the power of God. Again, when Jesus spoke of the "wind" he said it would blow, but we would not know where it comes from or where it is going (John 3:8).

If that driving wind weren’t enough of a sign, there are also those parted tongues of fire that came upon the disciples. Wind – fire – we are talking vitality, excitement and energy! Didn’t John the Baptist say that the one who would come after him would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Luke 3:16-17)?

The activity of the Spirit upon the disciples draws a crowd they is very diverse, but they understand what the Spirit-filled disciples are saying. It is a foreshadowing of the spread of the Church. One day the nations of the world would be able to say of the descendants of those first Christians, "…we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God."

The Pentecost scene isn’t just one of complete unity, it was also a separating event. While the community was unified and many people understood their initial preachings still, we have indications of what these preaches would face. There were skeptics in the crowd, some of whom would say that the excited disciples were drunk (Acts 2:13). The coming of the Spirit reveals the fault lines in the community, some believe, others are skeptical.

That should be no surprise to us. The greatest Spirit-inspired saints and prophets were not fully accepted by those who heard them – sometimes not even by members of their own communities. When the Pope visits El Salvador he will beatify Archbishop Oscar Romero. In his lifetime Romero was adored by the poor, whose rights he defended. But he was also called a communist by landowners, government officials and even by some church hierarchy.

It is clear that the Spirit does not leave the disciples comfortable, safe, locked away in a sheltered world. When the Spirit comes those who were huddled together are driven out into the world – a very different and confused world than they were accustomed to. But they were not on their own. They were driven and accompanied by the Spirit

Anyone who has been on a diocesan or parish council, or ministered in a parish, can tell you that, at times, it is a mess! Wouldn’t it be much easier if we could all get along, or agree on our goals and methods? Ministry can feel like the Tower of Babel with its confusion of tongues. But those who heard the Spirit-gifted Christians didn’t understand their Galilean tongue. Instead, the Galileans spoke in different languages and were understood. There was diversity and yet still unity. That’s how the gospel continues to be spread throughout the world, through many expressions of languages and cultures. The Spirit gathered the disciples into one church. But the Spirit also pushed the believers beyond their normal, accustomed boundaries.

Suppose someone were at the door when those disciples left the room after they received the Spirit. Suppose that person asked each departing one, "Where are you going?" I think they would have responded, "I don’t know, but I’ve got to go out." If they were asked, "What are you going to say when you get where you’re going?" I think they would have responded, "I don’t know now. But I will know when I get there because this fire in me doesn’t feel like it will ever go out!"

In Acts Luke describes the event of the Spirit coming in vibrant, forceful, vivid language. He’s making a point. God is fulfilling the promise that, in messianic times, the Spirit would be poured out on people (Ez 39:29; Is 32:15). But in doing that Luke might be giving the impression that the Spirit comes at certain moments and recedes to wait for another important time to come again. Forgive the image, but it is as if the Spirit pops in and out of our lives. If that were true then, when facing a difficult choice or challenge in my life, I might be hesitant to step forward and do what needs to be done: starting a food pantry; teaching a religion class to teens; going before the city council to challenge racist policies; saying "yes" to be a lector or eucharistic minister, etc.

In situations like these I might wonder if the Spirit were going to hold back or decide to come to enable and guide me. We are all familiar with the prayer, " Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful…." See what I mean? Where is the Spirit and why do we need to pray for him/her to come?

Perhaps the prayer inviting the Spirit to "come" is more for our need. The Spirit is always present and the prayer reminds us of that. What we need to do is say the prayer and then step out to do what needs doing. Don’t worry, the Spirit will be there each step of the way.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052415-pentecost-day.cfm

ANNOUNCEMENT

Aquinas Institute in St. Louis, Missouri is launching a new program for preachers. Once the planning is complete we will be offering multiple resources. Part of the planning involves listening to the needs of preachers. If you are currently an active preacher, may we ask that you take a few moments to offer us your thoughts? The entire process involves eleven questions ... thank you in advance for your participation.

https://www.ai.edu/Academics/DoctorofMinistryDMininPreaching/DelaplaneSurvey.aspx

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

May my theme be pleasing to God.

Psalm 104:34

It’s Pentecost! Our theme as followers of Christ should be one of Christian love—a love that is not just centered on family and friends but a love that extends out to the whole world of others who are also made in the image of God. As disciples, we should be the spark of love that will change the world. How do you do this? Get informed about a serious issue, see what our church teaches, and then act. You have a perfect opportunity to learn more about immigration this week as our Justice for Immigrants Ministry hosts "Myths and Facts about Current Events in Immigration" on Tuesday, May 26, 7-8:30PM in the school hall. Our speakers will be fellow parishioners: Consuelo Kwée, Diocesan Director of Immigration Services and parishioner, Patrick Hatch, Esq., Senior Immigration Attorney & President of Hatch Immigration Law. Make the time to make a difference.

"How do you speak with Catholics who maybe aren't so engaged in immigration reform or maybe aren't so interested in that issue?" Below is the reply of the new archbishop-designate of Santa Fe, N.M., John Wester, to this question posed by Joshua McElwee in an interview with NCR last week (4/30/2015).

One of the points that is very important to me is that the issue, immigration, has a lot of facets to it. It's a complex issue. But above all, it's a human issue. It's a moral and ethical issue. And so I believe that it's important to engage people at that level -- to touch their hearts, to [emphasize] their care for another human being, a fellow human being, regardless of what a given person might think about immigration. . . Whatever that is, the point is that these are human beings who are suffering. They're not getting proper medical attention, education, housing, employment. They're suffering because of unscrupulous employers. They're living in the shadows. I like to think that all citizens of this great country would be concerned about that and recognize that we have to do something. What that something is, is going to have to be hammered out. But the point is that they should be engaged and prompting their elected officials to do something about the terrible mess we're in right now. http://ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/santa-fes-new-archbishop-reflects-role-bishops-francis-era This Pentecost, may our theme be a Christian love, the fire of the Holy Spirit within us, that we then send into the world. May our theme be pleasing to God who is love.

----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.

From today’s Acts reading:

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit

and began to speak in different tongues,

as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Reflection:

It is clear that the Spirit does not leave the disciples comfortable, safe, locked away in a sheltered world. When the Spirit comes those who were huddled together are driven out into the world – a very different and confused world than they were accustomed to. But they were not on their own. They were sent and accompanied by the Spirit

So we ask ourselves:

  • The Holy Spirit is sometimes called, "The Forgotten God."
  • How conscious am I of the Spirit in prayer and worship? In my daily undertakings?

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

It is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples' lives from an unjust aggressor,"

—Pope Francis, Oct. 23, in a meeting with representatives of the International Association of Penal Law.


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:

  • Richard Cagle #0061528 (On death row since 6/16/95)
  • William Herring #0180479 (7/22/95)
  • Leslie Warren #0487180 (10/6/95)

----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: http://www.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 Or jboll@preacherexchange.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,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626

 


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