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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

- 1st SUNDAY OF ADVENT (B) - Nov. 30, 2014

Isaiah 63: 16b-17, 19b; 4: 2b-7; Psalm 80; 1Corinthians 1: 3-9; Mark 13: 33-37

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

AN END OF THE YEAR APPEAL

I know, like me, you have had programs interrupted on public radio and television for fundraising. Allow me to do a similar thing. We need your help for "PreacherExchange.com" and "First Impressions." We have kept the Spanish and English internet preaching and liturgical 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. Will you help us continue to do that?

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 for you.

Send tax deductible checks to:

Attn:  "First Impressions"

Dominican Friars

3150 Vince Hagan Dr.

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Or: For an online donation go to: www.preacherexchange.com/donations.htm

Thank you.



On November 3rd I was in a shopping mall and at the entrance to a department store a desk and imitation mailbox were set up. At the desk children were writing letters to Santa listing the gifts they wanted for Christmas. The central passageways of the mall were decorated with Christmas hangings and wreaths. On that day I heard my first Christmas carol – more than a month and a half before Christmas! Talk about rushing this season!

Here at church today we begin a new liturgical year, it is the first Sunday of Advent. This season attempts to slow us down and help us put a Christian focus on the times. Notice that the readings today are not about the first coming of Christ, his birth in Bethlehem, but about his second coming, his return. The second and third Sundays of Advent will focus on John the Baptist and his message of preparation. Then, on the fourth Sunday, our attention will to shift to Jesus’ birth as it began with the Annunciation.

It is the first Sunday of Advent and the last day of November, but the start of December will also herald, not the coming of Christ, but the beginning of the feastings, parties and gift exchanges. In our secular world Advent seems to begin the season of Christmas and the measuring of Christmas-time profits in the business sections of our newspapers. We will hear happy, silly jingles in stores and malls. While here at church, this season’s sounds will be contradictory – sober hymns that, with the Scriptures, liturgical banners and colors, will help us "Prepare the way of the Lord."

Advent recalls the past acts of God, not for the sake of nostalgia, but to help us look to the future with hope. We don’t just extend our present condition into the future; the way things are now doesn’t control how they will be. Present circumstances may offer no evidence of future fulfillment; but during Advent we learn to, "hope against hope" (Romans 4:18).

The Israelites in exile had no hope for their recovery and return to Israel. The Babylonian captivity lasted for about 50 years and, judging from their present situation, the exiles had no concrete reason to hope. Despite their sins ("our guilt carries us away like the wind"), Israel’s prayer recalls that God created the people ("You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer who are named forever.") and how once God deemed them from slavery. The prayer articulates that neither the enslaved people, nor we, can save ourselves from our present situation. The present is a period of suffering for large populations around the globe. The world can’t get better on its own. We need divine intervention: we need Advent hope, we need the coming of Christ. We can’t merely "prepare for Christmas" without that help. We need and pray for an intervention by God. We need a Messiah.

The gospel is sober and leaves little doubt that the master is returning to the house to assert his authority. This passage is part of a section called "the Little Apocalypse," i.e. a miniature "revealing." The text sets up Advent for us. We are not yet expecting the birth of the little baby Jesus, but the coming of Jesus, the master, who unexpectedly breaks into our routine in the middle of the night when we may be dozing off, or fully asleep. Our usual routine is shattered when God enters our world. In our lives we may have placed too much security on what was close at hand and seemed secure. But our accustomed world can easily collapse, like the dollar in recession. Advent asks how secure is the ground we stand on? When God enters our lives our self-sufficiency will not be enough for us.

Don’t we sense that our weary and battered world is not what God has in mind for us? God has plans to bring about another world through Jesus Christ. Those who are ready and awake will know when God comes and how to respond to God’s presence. Advent awakens us to realize we have invested our treasure in the wrong places and that world must end. The master, whom we serve, is coming to help us awaken from sleep so we can put aside our false world and rebuild our house on rock. "God is faithful" – Paul’s words will accompany us through any change or adjustment we must make in our lives. This is the God Isaiah evokes as he imagines us as clay to be formed by our God, "the potter," and reminds us, "we are all the work of your hands."

Today’s selection from Mark is a gospel for hard times. This was certainly true for the community for whom Mark wrote. To name just a few problems the early Christian community faced: Jerusalem was destroyed in the year 70; Christians were persecuted by both religious and political authorities; the new faith had torn families apart; false prophets were predicting Christ’s imminent return. Who could blame these early Christians for asking, "Where is Jesus now that we need him? Has he forgotten us? When is he going to return?"

These questions we modern believers might ask when the foundations of our world are shaken by death, divorce, catastrophic illness, a child on drugs, extended unemployment etc. Hearing today’s gospel would have strengthened the faithful undergoing hard times. As difficult as their days might have been the parable would have assured them that Jesus was going to return, and would put an end to their suffering. The admonition "Be watchful! Be alert!"would influence them each day. "Perhaps this is the day Jesus is returning." That expectation and hope would strengthen them "in the meanwhile."

What about us, all these years later? In the developed world we may not be going through what the early Christian community did in Mark’s time. But some communities in the world and individuals among us, certainly are. So many Christians and people of goodwill are experiencing uprooting with the consequent confusion and pain.

We pray with the many distressed of the world today. We cling to Advent hope and trust that God holds all people in loving hands. Nothing is outside God’s concern and God can come at any moment to help us. We have a lot that distracts us in daily life and can numb us to the pain of others. Following Jesus’ mandate to "Be watchful! Be alert!" helps us stay in touch with our faith in God’s love and alert to God’s intervention in our daily lives.

Staying alert helps us grow spiritually. We grow in sensitivity to the pain of others when we begin to notice what grieves them. Our staying awake and attentive to the world around us can alert us to the already-arrived and still-coming of Christ.

This season has us keep watchful for Christ’s future return. Still, Advent is very much a season of the present moment because God is already in our midst and continues to stay with us. When Advent has ended we will celebrate Christ’s taking flesh among us. In the meanwhile this Eucharist helps us prepare for Christ and, with the Word, can open our eyes and ears to his presence already among us .

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/113014.cfm

QUOTABLE


I believe with all my belief

in the coming of the messiah.

And even if there is a delay,

I believe.

—Hebrew song
 

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven. Psalm 85: 11-12

I find the imagery from this passage in Psalms to be captivating. I can picture a Divine dance of celebration. Here you find Divine activity personified as pairs of attributes: kindness and truth, justice and peace. The presence of these attributes or virtues, makes a fit place for God to dwell. They are relationships of order and harmony that sin has destroyed. How often has someone spoken the truth about something, only to be roundly condemned by the status quo? Or, worse still, by those who would rather live with blinders on their eyes? It happened to Jesus quite frequently.

In 2013, the first year of Pope Francis’ pontificate, he presented the theme for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He states, "This year, the theme on which I would like to reflect with you and with all who will read this message is one that concerns both Muslims and Christians: Promoting Mutual Respect through Education. This year’s theme is intended to underline the importance of education in the way we understand each other, built upon the foundation of mutual respect. "Respect" means an attitude of kindness towards people for whom we have consideration and esteem. "Mutual" means that this is not a one-way process, but something shared by both sides" (7/10/13).

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/pont-messages/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130710_musulmani-ramadan.html

I am convinced that continuing education for adults in moral and ethical matters would advance justice in the world. I also feel that active listening is a skill that is lacking on many fronts. This type of listening means to listen and accept another’s thoughts on a subject without trying to challenge, critique, or even respond to them aloud. Unfortunately, our society is caught up in sound bites and where the squeakiest wheels are the only ones being heard.

Yet, in this the second week of Advent, we are called to repent, reconcile, and restore the original harmony. This week try to learn something new, delve into any one moral or ethical question by reading about the subject, seek out those who have been studying the issue, and then have an earnest, respectful, and loving conversation.

It just might be the beginning of a new way to dance in the world.

-----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 Gospel reading:

Jesus said to his disciples:

"Be watchful! Be alert!

You do now know when the time will come."

Reflection:

We pray with the many distressed of the world today. We cling to Advent hope and trust that God holds all people in loving hands. Nothing is outside God’s concern and God can come at any moment to help us. We have a lot that distracts us in daily life and can numb us to the pain of others. Following Jesus’ mandate to "Be watchful! Be alert!" helps us stay in touch with our faith in God’s love and alert to God’s intervention in our daily lives.

So we ask ourselves:

  • How does Jesus’ instruction, "Be watchful! Stay alert!" take shape in your daily life?
  • What helps you keep watchful and alert to the Lord’s presence?

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:

  • Terry Moore #0290634 (On death row since 6/14/03)
  • Jeffrey N. Duke #0113234 (9/26/03)
  • Linwood E. Forte #0133102 (10/8/03)

----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 the above email address.

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. "Homilias Domincales" —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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