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FIRST IMPRESSIONS - EASTER VIGIL (A) - April 19, 2014

Gn 1: 1-22; Gn 22: 1-18; Ex 14: 15–15:1; Is 54: 5-14; Is 55:1-11;
Bar 3: 9-15; Ez 36: 16-17a,18-28; Rom 6: 3-11; Matthew 28: 1-10

By: Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

PRE-NOTE: We have posted an additional reflection for Holy Thursday on our webpage.

Go to: http://www.preacherexchange.com/latest.htm

WELCOME to the latest email recipients of "First Impressions," the parishioners of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Daly City, Ca.



Today readers of Matthew’s Gospel welcome the re-appearance of an angelic figure. The attentive reader is alerted to the significance of today’s narrative because Matthew saves angelic appearances for only the most important moments in his gospel. We recall angels in the Nativity and desert temptation accounts. On the mount of Transfiguration two other heavenly figures appear, Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. These three are key moments in Matthew’s narrative – hence the heavenly figures.

Today an angel is at the empty tomb to calm and then send the two Marys to tell the news of Christ’s resurrection to the disciples. Some dramatists might enhance the scene at the tomb with a trumpet blast. Matthew does it with an angel, bright as lightning with snow-white garments. The guards, representatives of the state that executed Jesus as a criminal, were overcome with fear and were "like dead men." The power of the most powerful and oppressive nation of the time, Rome, shrinks back in fear and impotency. The message is clear: no power, or evil force, can overcome our God who gives life to the dead. The angel rolls back the stone and sits on it, as if on a triumphant throne. God is the Victor – death has been defeated.

The story is about grace – as it always is. Who can triumph over evil and death? We Americans are a "can-do people." John F. Kennedy promised the nation that in 10 years we would put an American on the moon – and we did. On 9/11 the Twin Towers were destroyed and now a new World Trade Center has been built and dedicated. Our hard work and determination have yielded impressive results.

But, try as we might, we cannot defeat death. That’s God’s work. God has done the unexpected and the angel of the Lord is there to announce it. At the empty tomb the two women are appointed to be the first preachers of the Good News. The heavenly messenger sends them, "Go quickly and tell his disciples."

Before they are sent with the news of the resurrection the angel tells the women, "Do not be afraid!" What do they and we have to be afraid of? We live in a world where fear can keep people from speaking the truth and reaching out across national, economic and racial divides. In "the old days" people didn’t seem to feel so self-conscious if they were beliervers. Then, few people admitted they were atheists or didn’t belong to any faith tradition. In my large, extended family, I had a second cousin who claimed he was an atheist. At family gatherings, when he was present, inevitably someone would challenge him and, once again, ask, "Why don’t you go to church?"

These days the roles are reversed. People are less shy about admitting they are nonbelievers and, it seems, believers are more on the defensive. We might be called naïve for expressing faith in a resurrected savior and life after death. People admire us for our charitable works but, belief in the resurrection? Forget about it!

The angel’s reassuring words, "Do not be afraid!" are spoken to us too as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection. The women shouldn’t be afraid because their crucified leader is not in the tomb, he is risen. The angel makes the announcement and invites them to see for themselves; the tomb is empty. But the body isn’t merely gone. Jesus is "raised from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see him."

Pope Francis has reminded us that we are an evangelizing church. Each baptized Christian has the same role the women were given by the angel, "Do not be afraid...go quickly and tell…." Despite the bemused looks we might receive from our sophisticated, modern neighbors, we still are charged to witness to our faith in the risen Lord by our actions and words. In many and diverse ways our lives must reflect the faith we profess this day, "Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again."

Had the tomb not been empty and Jesus’ body still there, the women would have arrived at the tomb, grieved and shared precious, personal memories of their dead teacher. Then, disappointed and sad, they would have returned to their old lives, picked up the pieces of their shattered hopes and gone on living. It’s what we do with the death of a loved one. They are gone – period. Life must go on without them. If they have suffered, we are relieved they don’t have to suffer anymore. Now we must return to our regular lives and do the best we can without them.

But, for those women and for us, there is that angel at the empty tomb. We believers can’t ignore the message we have heard, "Do not be afraid!… He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said…. go quickly and tell his disciples."

The women couldn’t go back to their regular lives. If someone told them, "Get over it!" They would have responded, "We can’t. Jesus is risen and we have to share the good news with those who haven’t heard it yet!" These first preachers speak for all of us as well.

Jesus is risen and we have to take seriously what he said to us: "Take up your cross and follow me… Feed the hungry… Clothe the naked… Forgive those who offend you… Be peacemakers… Forego vengeance… Love your enemies… Share your riches with the poor etc." We are near the end of Matthew’s gospel. Now that Christ is risen we can go back to hear it again what Jesus told his disciples to do – and not be afraid to do it and speak it.

If I were there at the empty tomb, I would make a personal response to the angel. "What do you mean, ‘Don’t be afraid!’ Of course I’m afraid. How can I live the life Jesus calls me to live in the world? The cards are stacked against me and I don’t always get much encouragement from even my family and friends – much less my enemies. I lack the courage to stand out from the crowd and be Christ-like. I need help!"

The angel might respond and tell us and other readers of Matthew’s gospel, "Hang in there. Read a little further on to the end of the chapter and believe what the risen Christ says to his disciples as he sends them out, ‘And know that I am with you always, until the end of the world’" (28:20).

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

Gn 1: 1-22; Gn 22: 1-18; Ex 14: 15–15:1; Is 54: 5-14; Is 55:1-11;
Bar 3: 9-15; Ez 36: 16-17a,18-28; Rom 6: 3-11; Matthew 28: 1-10

QUOTABLE

The Spirit of God

is a life that bestows life,

root of world-tree

and wind in its boughs.

Scrubbing our sin,

she rubs oil into wounds.

She is glistening life

alluring all praise,

all-awakening,

all-resurrecting.

 

----Hildegard of Bingen

("Antiphons for the Holy Spirit")

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

I shall not die, but live

Psalm 118:17

When it comes to writing about Resurrection, the topic is more than my mind can grasp. Surely, this is one of God’s greatest surprises; our God who saves the best for last. So, I am not going to even try. Feel free to look up for yourselves what the Church teaches. One good resource is, The Collegeville Pastoral Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Liturgical Press, 1996).

Instead, I am going to share with you a favorite poem of mine by Rumi, who was a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic. His simple words capture what the earliest disciples of our Lord perceived—that their sharing in Jesus’ new life had already begun.

  • Two Suns Rising
  • What a day today.
  • There are two Suns rising!
  • What a day,
  • Not like any other day.
  • Look!
  • The Light is shining in your heart,
  • The wheel of life has stopped.
  • Oh, you who can see into your own heart,
  • What a day,
  • This is your day.
  • As we begin the fifty days of this Easter season culminating in Pentecost, God has commissioned us to share the love we have been given, to take this love to those who live on society’s edges. You can always contact me at socialconcern@sacredheartcathedral.org to join with other parishioners who are already working in those edges.

    May our journey be a joyous one.

    By the way, I like surprises, do you?

    ------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:

    The angel said to the women,

    "Go quickly and tell his disciples,

    ‘He has been raised from the dead...."’

    Reflection:

    God has done the unexpected and the angel of the Lord is there to announce it. At the empty tomb the two women are appointed to be the first preachers of the Good News. The heavenly messenger sends them, "Go quickly and tell his disciples."

    Each baptized Christian has the same role the women were given by the angel, "Do not be afraid...go quickly and tell…."

    So we ask ourselves:

    • In what ways does my life reflect my belief in the risen Christ?
    • Do I ever talk about it with another person?
    • Does that belief affect my prayer as well?

    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:

    • 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 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. "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 r 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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