We are not computers with pre-installed
programs wired into us. God could have created us that way, "factory
loaded," to always make the right decisions throughout our lives. If
we were the creator, we might have designed humans that way. It
certainly would have made for a neater world, less conflict and
pain, for sure. But that’s not how we were made. From the beginning
we were given the freedom to choose.
The record of human endeavors shows we
haven’t always use that freedom well. Certain individuals and
communities have shone like beacons in the dark. While others have
pursued their own interests and power, resulting in human conflict
and pain for a sizable portion of humanity.
There stands in the middle of today’s
Old Testament narrative the "tree of the knowledge of good and
evil." The tree doesn’t appear anywhere else in the Bible. But there
are hints of it in the temptation story and, at the end of the
gospels, the tree of the cross appears. In the Genesis account the
tree suggests that living according to God’s commands will benefit
humans; not following God’s commands ends in disaster. Humans are
given the power to choose.
Adam and Eve don’t choose wisely. They
opt for power and disobey God. That disobedience breaks the bond of
friendship and intimacy they had with God. They want what they want,
when they want it, and their disobedience alienates them from God.
Later, Adam will blame his wife for what they did and so the
disobedience alienates them from one another as well. Their "fallen"
condition isn’t what God had in mind when God created them. What
started in the Garden will echo throughout Scripture: God’s
benevolence towards humans; our rejection of the gift and the
alienation that breaks our relationships with God and neighbor. The
bottom line: our choice for an illusionary freedom only results in
The story of Adam and Eve is a powerful
mythic tale. Did it literally happened the way the story tells it?
No. But it’s a true story because it echoes throughout human
history, right up to this present moment. The freedom to choose is
at the center of our own garden and we have frequently chosen for
our own benefit. We want power and that is the tree in the center of
our garden, whose fruit we reach out to pick and eat.
In the Adam and Eve story we Christians
anticipate the coming of God’s anointed, the Christ, who would
forsake the quest for power and, instead, choose service and
sacrifice for others. Christ’s tree, the cross, is the center of our
own garden and the fruit of that tree is God’s love which enables us
to choose love and, like Jesus, to give our lives for others.
Today, in Romans, Paul reminds us of
the consequence of Adam’s transgression, "the many died… death came
to reign." He then succinctly summarizes the gospel, the message of
what God has done for us. "For if, by the transgression of the one,
the many died, how much more will those who receive the abundance of
grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through
the one Jesus Christ."
Matthew wrote his gospel for a mostly
Jewish Christian community and so his narrative stirs Jewish memory.
For example: "40 days and 40 nights" has many Old Testament roots.
Rain fell for 40 days and nights during the flood that delivered
Noah, his family and the animals from evil; Elijah fasted in the
desert for 40 days and nights; Moses fasted for 40 days and nights
on Mount Sinai while he wrote the Ten Commandments; Israel wandered
for 40 years in the desert failing frequently in her devotion to
God. Now Jesus, led by the Spirit, enters the desert, fasts for 40
days and 40 nights and, though tempted, stays faithful to God and
The devil suggests that Jesus use power
for his own satisfaction. A temptation some city, state and
nationally elected officials were recently found guilty of doing.
Jesus will not take care of his own needs, God will. As necessary
and basic as bread is, Jesus’ mission is about something even more
important and that’s where he will focus his energies.
In accomplishing his mission Jesus will
be vulnerable and suffer pain and death. The devil suggests God
could protect him from harm – if Jesus were the beloved of God. Our
own sufferings might cause us to doubt God’s love. "If God really
loves me, why am I going through this crisis?" Jesus trusted God
throughout his ministry and would not use his power to keep himself
safe and pain free.
But, even if Jesus won’t use his power
for his own benefit, or to draw people to his mission, at least he
could accomplish his task by aligning with the influence, prestige
and powers of the world’s kingdoms. Jesus rejects this final
temptation as well. The kingdom of God he has come to announce will
not adopt the power and ways of the nations; but will have "mustard
seed beginnings" and will, like yeast, be a quiet and subtle
leavening agent for the world.
In what powers do we put our
confidence? Aren’t we tempted, even for a noble purpose, to push
through our agendas without listening to those who suggest other
means to accomplish an end? Even at a parish council meeting, while
discussing good projects, how much true listening goes on?
We will learn more about Jesus as we
follow Matthew’s lead these Sundays through our liturgical year. In
his gospel the temptation scene begins to reveal Jesus to us. The
temptations will continue through his ministry, until the powers he
refused to bow to, or compromise with, turn on him with fury. Still,
Jesus will not use his power to impress people; he will not perform
miracles for those who demand them in order to believe, and his
healings will be signs of life, not flashy displays of power.
Jesus teaches us that we are not to bow
to any earthly powers, nor let their leaders take possession of our
hearts and minds. Political realities are not the kingdom of God.
God’s rule is present now, but it directs our gaze beyond history.
Having seen the kind of powers Jesus rejects, we chose to live his
life. We are asked to do what Jesus asked of his disciples: "Follow
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s
ADVICE TO LECTORS
Posture speaks. Make sure
it says what you want it to. Don’t let your face or body
contradict the good news you announce. Remember, readers
are allowed to smile!
with Nancy Seitz Marcheschi, "Workbook for Lectors,
Gospel Readers and Proclaimers of the Word, 2014 Year A"
(Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2013)
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
Give me back the joy of your salvation
Psalm 51: 14
For many years now, Sacred Heart
Cathedral parish has generously supported the CRS Rice Bowl and, it
is my hope that this year you will continue to reach out and help
our brothers and sisters around the world. Catholic Relief Services
(CRS) has a wonderful website that has stories of the people your
donations help. It is a wonderful way to journey through Lent week
by week. On the site, you can read the stories, watch the videos,
find recipes, family activities and reflections.
The following is a story about Michael,
who is from Kenya.
Kariobangi is a neighborhood in
Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. The people who live here come from
many different backgrounds. Many are young adults under the age of
30. The people of Kariobangi have trouble finding jobs, clean water
and healthy food that is not too expensive. Hunger, poverty and
sickness are problems that affect the entire community. Since there
are very few paid jobs in Kariobangi, people can have a hard time
affording food and other necessities for their families.
Michael Mzuli is part of a working
group organized by Kariobangi’s Holy Trinity Parish with support
from Catholic Relief Services. Holy Trinity and CRS help these
groups start small businesses such as mechanic shops, garbage
collection, gardening services, motorcycle taxi businesses and hair
salons. First, the group decides what service their community needs.
Then CRS helps them get any tools they need to start the work, and
makes sure they have a plan to work together as a team. Many of the
jobs done by these groups, like planting trees and collecting
garbage, make Kariobangi a better place to live.
Since there is no organized garbage
collection service in Kariobangi, Michael’s group decided to collect
garbage from households for a small fee. CRS helped them buy
push-carts so they could carry the garbage to the dump. At the end
of each day, the working group divides the money they earned so each
worker gets paid. Now, Michael can afford healthy food for his wife,
Janette, and their young daughter, Stephanie.
Michael is happy to earn money through
his new job, but he is also happy to be a part of a group working
together. "To be something, to be doing something is important",
Michael says. "It brings us together as a community, and also puts
food on the table for our families."
CRS RICE BOWLS ARE IN A BASKET IN THE
VESTIBULE OF THE CATHEDRAL—PLEASE TAKE ONE HOME. Help be the joy
this world needs!
----Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Coordinator of Social Justice Ministries
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.
1st SUNDAY OF LENT
(A) - March 9, 2014
Genesis 2: 7-9; 3: 1-7;
Psalm 51; Romans 5: 12-19; Matthew 4: 1-11
From today’s Gospel reading:
Then the devil said to Jesus:
"If you are the Son of God, throw yourself
For it is written,
‘God will command his angels concerning
and with their hands they will support
lest you dash your foot against a stone.’"
In accomplishing his mission Jesus will
be vulnerable and suffer pain and death. But the devil suggests God
could protect Jesus from harm. Our own sufferings might cause us to
doubt God’s love. "If God really loves me, why am I going through
this crisis?" Jesus trusted God throughout his ministry and would
not use his power to keep himself safe and pain free.
So we ask ourselves:
- Does our suffering stir ups
feelings of God close to us or distant from us?
- At moments like these does
reflecting on Jesus’ own suffering and death strengthen us?
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:
- Vincent M. Wooten #0453231 (On
death row since 4/29/94)
- john R. Elliott #0120038 (5/4/94)
- Wade L. Cole #0082151 (6/14/94)
----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
"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
If you would like to support this
ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude
St. Albert Priory 3150 Vince Hagan
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Make checks payable to: Dominican
Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation:
1. We have compiled Four CDS for
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
and clicking on the "First Impressions"
CD link on the left.
(These CDs have been updated at least
twice in the last five years.)
2. "Homilías Dominicales" —These
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3. Our webpage:
Where you will find "Preachers’
Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilias
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
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert Priory
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736