AN END OF THE YEAR
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Some of my friends are all excited. Their daughter just gave
birth to their first grandchild. They are already packing for the
250 mile car trip to see this newest member of their family. They
can’t wait! The birth of a child is a big deal in families and among
friends. There are parties to present the newest member. Lots of "oohs"
and "aahs." There is also loving competition, "You’ve had him long
enough, now it’s my turn." "Here, let me hold her!"
Things haven’t changed much in human history. While we might
bring a child to be baptized, Luke tells us that, for Joseph and
Mary, a devout Jewish couple with their first son, there was a
presentation ritual at the Temple and a sacrifice to be made. The
couple was poor and their offering was not a bull, lamb or goat, but
the gift of the poor, two doves. There would be other worshipers in
the Temple that day. They would have included in their prayers their
longing for the Messiah to come and free them. Hadn’t the prophets
promised that? Didn’t they need someone to rescue them from Roman
oppression and keep hope alive in the God of their ancestors?
Those worshipers would have recalled the promise God made to
Abraham and Sarah. When God appeared to Abram (later Abraham) he
acknowledges his gratitude for the gifts God had given him. But
there was a caveat. Those gifts would have only been temporary since
the couple was childless. There would be no heirs, no future for the
family. Then God makes a promise to Abram that his heirs would be as
numerous as the stars in the night sky.
The exchange between God and Abraham is certainly low key. There
is no burning bush; no lightning or thunder when God speaks. It is
like a conversation two friends might have over coffee.
Nevertheless, even though there are no fireworks and Abram and Sarah
are advanced in age, Abram accepts the promise God made to him. He
trusts God’s word and his faith in God is "credited to him as an act
of righteousness." His faith puts him in right relationship with
The second part of the story confirms that Abram’s faith bore
fruit, the couple have a son. This son will be a sign of God’s
promise to the couple that their descendants would be as numerous as
the stars. Throughout their history faithful Jews waited for their
hope in God to be fulfilled. Like Abraham, they trusted in the one
who made a promise. Today’s feast celebrates God’s faithfulness and
the fulfillment of God’s promise. Abraham’s descendants would be as
numerous as the stars, just as God promised. But there is a surprise
in the fulfillment. The one who would fulfill this promise, the
first of God’s many children, enters the Temple with his poor
parents and is barely noticed.
A devout Jewish couple present their child to God. Who could have
guessed that this was the one that people had longed for? How easily
he could have been missed. He almost was – amid the priests offering
animal sacrifices, the Pharisees teaching the children, the din of
the terrified animals and the money changers. If anyone drew
attention in the Temple that day they would have been the
distinguished priests and the wealthy, who were well-dressed and up
front. How easily the child, along with his poor parents, could have
Except he wasn’t missed by everyone. There were the elderly
Simeon and Anna, the aged sentinels who wouldn’t give up on God,
because they believed God would never give up on them. What an
inconspicuous group they were: the parents, the child and two
elderly, prayerful people.
Pope Francis has said that children and the elderly represent two
poles of life and are the most vulnerable and most often forgotten
groups. He also said a society that abandons children, or
marginalizes its elderly members shows the failure of that society.
He wasn’t just talking about the poorest nations, not with 14
million children in this country going to bed hungry. Not with 3.8
million senior Americans living below the poverty line who are
further affected by unexpected health care costs and the need for
shelter in harsh weather. Most of the elderly poor are women, who
have received low wages because of wage discrimination. Nearly one
in five single, widowed or divorced women over 65 is poor.
It’s a biblical theme: the least in society are the ones God is
most concerned about and calls us to be attentive to. The two
elderly in today’s gospel focus our attention – Simeon the vigilant
and Anna, the prophet. They recognize what God is doing and speak
out openly about it.
Because of our baptism we are the temples God visits and where
God dwells. When the Lord comes suddenly to our temple will we
recognize him? Will we make room for him? Will we change for him?
Who can help us discover the surprising emergence of God into our
lives? Judging from today’s gospel, devout and faithful seniors can
It’s a good day to celebrate the seniors in our lives who have
helped us come to know Christ. They are the sentinels who, through
years of faithful service, have kept their focus and helped open our
eyes. They are the wisdom figures in our family and among our
friends – parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, and senior
friends and acquaintances.
In parishes they teach classes and prepare children for the
sacraments; they organize and deliver food to the sick; they bring
communion to shut-ins; care for grandchildren and teach them their
prayers. They are in our temples – parish churches and chapels. They
bring flowers and prepare the altar for Mass; answer the phones in
the parish office; count the collection on Monday mornings; are
members of the bereavement committee; make up the Lector and
Eucharistic ministers’ assignment sheets and much, much more.
We don’t want to miss God’s subtle entrance into our lives. We
are thankful at this Eucharist for the Annas and Simeons who have
helped us keep our eyes and ears open to recognize when the light of
Christ has come into our temple.
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
To choose what is difficult all one’s days
As if it
were easy, that is faith Joseph, praise.
---W.F. Auden, Fire for the Time Being: A
Four year-old Margaret loved her picture of the Holy Family.
There it hung low on the wall within her reach, and every night she
gave it a resounding kiss before she got into bed. One night, just
as she was all settled in bed and her mother was giving her the
final tucking in, "I gotta get up! I forgot!"announced Margaret.
Covers flew, as she wriggled out of bed and pattered over to her
beloved picture, giving it a loud smack. Back in bed she settled
herself contentedly, looked up at her mother and remarked with a
deep sigh, "They’re such lovely people!"—source unknown
Saint Pope John Paul II states in his "Gospel of Life" (1995),
that "God in His deepest mystery is not a solitude, but a family…"
In the Holy Family, we have been given a picture of the God, who is
a family, in which to model our own families.
Pope Francis goes on to state, "[T]he ‘home’ represents the most
precious human treasures, that of encounter, that of relations among
people, different in age, culture and history, but who live together
and together help one another to grow. For this reason, the "home"
is a crucial place in life, where life grows and can be fulfilled,
because it is a place in which every person learns to receive love
and to give love."
"Sadly, this is often not the case, as the number of broken and
troubled families is on the rise, not simply because of the
weakening sense of belonging so typical of today’s world, but also
because of the adverse conditions in which many families are forced
to live, even to the point where they lack basic means of
subsistence. There is a need for suitable policies aimed at
supporting, assisting and strengthening the family!"
Here in Wake County, we have a unique program to strengthen
families known as Support Circles. As part of the city’s
commitment to end homelessness and coordinated by Catholic
Charities, parishioners commit to a one-year walk in relationship
with a poor, struggling family. I urge you that if you want to
understand better the lives of the poor, if you want to put a face
on poverty, commit to walk with a family. Not only will you help
alter the trajectory of their lives, you might just change the
trajectory of your own. Contact Barbara at
firstname.lastname@example.org . Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more of our
parish family embraced the larger community in this way? What an
image of God that would be!
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:
was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel and the
Holy Spirit was upon him....
also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of
Let’s celebrate the seniors in our lives who have helped us come
to know Christ. They are the wisdom figures in our family and among
our friends – parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, and senior
friends and acquaintances. They are the sentinels who have kept
their focus and helped open our eyes to God’s entrance into our
So we ask ourselves:
- Can we name specific older Christians who have been our
- What can we do to show them our appreciation?
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:
- Ryan G. Garcell #0775602 (On death row since 4/4/2006)
- George T. Wilkerson #0900281 (12/20/2006)
- Eugene Williams #0441044 (5/1/2007)
----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:
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If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax
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If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group,
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(These CDs have been updated twice in the last five years.)
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drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at
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
Thank you and blessings on your
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert Priory
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736
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