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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

22nd SUNDAY -C- August 28, 2016

Sirach 3: 17-18, 20, 28-30; Ps. 68; Hebrews 12: 18-19, 22-24; Luke 14: 1, 7-14

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

 

   22nd

Sunday in

Ordinary

Time

I have to admit to an initial discomfort at today’s gospel. Luke tells us Jesus has been invited to "the home of one of the leading Pharisees." Jesus no sooner arrives for dinner than he begins to lecture his guests where they are to sit and that they should not take a place of honor at the table – they are to be humble. But the humility seems to be artificial, with the hope of being rewarded with a higher place by their host. Then Jesus lectures his host about not inviting friends or relatives to a dinner, but to invite "the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind." Jesus is a discomfiting guest to invite to dinner!

What is he up to? Is he giving helpful hints on how to win places of honor? After all, his disciples were mostly no-account people and perhaps longed for distinction in a privileged religious world. Is he advising his followers to pretend humility so that religious dignitaries would see their humble state and honor them? Certainly there have been and will be religious charlatans in the halls of the religious elite. However, Jesus taught that they were not to be concerned about exterior acts of piety as much as they were to have humble hearts prepared to mingle and eat with the least in society.

Meal settings are frequent and important in Luke’s Gospel. Did you notice at the beginning of today’s passage Luke says that Jesus told a parable to the invited guests? So, the passage isn’t a strategy for how to win honored places at the table, and avoid embarrassment in front of other guests. Jesus’ mission wasn’t to come to teach us good etiquette, or to suggest guidelines for advancing in religious and social circles.

If it is a parable it should convey meaning for the life of disciples. His contemporaries competed with one another to win favor in God’s eyes and show their peers how well they kept religious laws. They were the ones who watched Jesus when he entered the Pharisee’s home and observed his behavior. Hadn’t they already criticized him for curing on the Sabbath, associating with the wrong kind of people and touching the unclean and afflicted?

Since it is a parable we look to what it teaches us about our relationship with God and then one another. There’s no need to push our way forward before God to be noticed and honored. Some people who have much and are honored in their community appear more esteemed in God’s eyes than those who have little and may be afflicted. The poor, uneducated and stressed, would have no time to become proficient in the Law and be on a par with those Pharisees at table. But God notices the least and humble of heart and raises us up based sheerly on grace. We may be in the lowest places by choice or circumstances, but we are not overlooked by our God who, in Jesus, has come to where we are and says, "My friend, move up to a higher position." (I like the earlier translation, it’s more direct, "My friend, come up higher.")

Remember too that in Luke’s community there were many non-Jews converting to Christianity. They were late comers to the dinner party and, to Jewish converts, not as prepared or established in the traditions of God’s chosen people. Who hasn’t been to parishes and Christian communities where the influx of newcomers upsets the older generation whose parents paid for and built the church; or whose predecessors were founders of the religious congregations and provinces? We feel we have earned our places in our religious communities and then God comes along and upsets the established order. While we maintain our dignity and sense of earned privilege, God offers generous welcome and favor to the late arrivals drawn from the highways and byways to the Lord’s banquet. These people cannot repay the favor, but are signs to us of the free, unearned gift of God’s grace.

I don’t think Jesus is telling me, on my next home visit, to avoid the opportunity to celebrate with family and friends. Such meals maintain and build up deeper bonds of commitment and love. But I do believe he is reminding me to notice those who don’t have strong family ties and supporting friends and not neglect them. They need our presence and support, they need a voice to defend, protect and assure them of their human dignity. We must make sure they are recognized and given a place at the table where they can be honored and their voices heard. We don’t do this to get rewards from God, that’s in God’s hands – God’s very generous hands.

Meals in Luke’s Gospel are not just about individual meals, not once-and-for-all incidents in Jesus’ ministry. Each meal also points to an tells us something about the Eucharist, where we find ourselves as we hear today’s gospel. We are not eating in the house of the Pharisee where we are being watched and evaluated. When we entered the doors of our church today we again passed through the "Door of Mercy." In the eyes of the world what happens here is all turned around. We are honored guests, not because of what we have done and deserve, but because Jesus is our host and has called us to be his beloved guests, and brothers and sisters to one another.

He hasn’t invited us because of our stellar performance in the world, but because he already loves us. His words and actions have convinced us that we are invited to this table whether "out there" we come first or last. So, we approach this meal with joy and profound gratitude that our host has seen and acknowledged us and calls us forward to be full and equal partakers in the banquet he has so lovingly prepared for us. Jesus is our host today and comes to each of us and says, "My friend, move up to a higher position."

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082816.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

God gives a home to the forsaken

Psalm 68:7

Ever since 1987, I have been helping working poor families in Wake County achieve simple, decent home ownership through Habitat for Humanity. Probably the most oft repeated comment that family members have made consistently, over the many home builds in which I have participated, is, "I never dreamed I could own a home!" To be truthful, this is something that, when I first heard it, I had never considered.

Yet, for too many of our fellow citizens, home ownership remains an elusive part of the American dream.

And that is a really sad statement to make, especially when we have the wise words of St. Pope John Paul II: "We are convinced that a house is much more than a simple roof over one’s head. The place where a person creates and lives out his or her life, also serves to found, in some way, that person’s deepest identity and his or her relations with others." And, more recently, the words of Pope Francis: "The 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." Have you ever reflected about what makes a --house/apartment/townhouse/condominium-- a home?

Over one million residents in North Carolina struggle to find safe, decent affordable housing and here in Wake County, we are short approximately 33,000 units. Our city officials realize that affordable housing is one of the keys to a vibrant community but there is much to do. I am so happy to announce that this weekend, Saturday, August 27th, Sacred Heart, as part of the HFH Catholic Coalition, launched its seventh build. Please join this ten-week build and come out once or as many times as you would like. We work on the house on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Saturday lunches are provided by the different parishes in the Coalition. The house is located in the Neuse Ridge development off of Business 64. It is important to plan ahead and schedule your work day one month prior to your day of choice. The only link to use to get on the Catholic Coalition team is: http://vhub.at/CatholicCoalition. Our new parish coordinator is Walt Milowic. For questions, contact him via: socialconcern@sacredheartcathedral.org

----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:

When you hold a lunch or a dinner,

do not invite your friends or your brothers [and sisters],

or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back

and you have your repayment.

Reflection:

When we entered the doors of our church today we again passed through the "Door of Mercy." In the eyes of the world what happens here is all turned around. We are honored guests, not because of what we have done and deserve, but because Jesus is our host and has called us to be his beloved guests, and brothers and sisters to one another.

So we ask ourselves:

  • How often do we sit for a meal or at a social occasion with people from lesser social standing or means than us?
  • Do we just associate with our "own kind" of people and avoid others who are different than 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:

  • Iziah Barden #0491889 (On death row since 11/12/99)
  • Andre L. Fletcher #0130628 (12/9/99)
  • Terry A. Hyatt #0199879 (2/7/00)

----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the webpage of the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://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
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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.

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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