"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

4th SUNDAY OF EASTER (B) APRIL 22, 2018

Acts 4: 8-12 Psalm 118 1 John 3: 1-2 John 10: 11-18

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

I grew up in a big city and had never seen or met a shepherd, until I lived in West Virginia. In the southern part of the state there were communities of shepherds. Once, one of the shepherds in a small congregation there, asked this big-city kid, "If there were 100 sheep in a pasture and one jumped over the fence, how many would be left?" Sensing a trick question, I still said, "Ninety nine?" "Nope," he said, "There would be none left. Sheep are so dumb they would just follow the one who jumped over the fence."

While we might not be "dumb sheep," we certainly have done some dumb things and made hurtful decisions in our lives. When we reflect on how we have been on our own, we have to admit we need a shepherd to stay with us and guide us. And more: to give us encouragement and healing when we need it. Not just an ordinary shepherd of course, but a good shepherd who won’t leave us when our lives get tough and we are attacked by one kind of wolf, or another. Wolves like: misfortune, material envy, loneliness, addiction, discontent, the allure of false security and misdirected goals.

Throughout John’s Gospel Jesus makes a number of "I am" statements, in which he describes his role and mission in terms of – a door, vine, bread, and water. In the Hebrew Scriptures, "I am" ("ego eimi") accompanies God’s self revelation (Exodus 3:14). In Ezekiel (34:15) God, frustrated with the poor leadership of Israel’s rulers and priests says, "I myself will pastor my sheep: I myself will give them rest...." God’s promise to personally shepherd the lost and confused, is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the good shepherd. And so, with another "I am," Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd." He is the good shepherd because he willingly lays down his life for his sheep. It is what shepherds must do, sacrifice for the well-being of those in their care.

Jesus refers to himself as the good shepherd twice. The first time he asserts that he will lay down his life for the sheep. He will defend us and his church against the "wolves." These could also be false teachers who scatter the flock by their errors. The second time he says, "I am the good shepherd," he speaks of the inner life of the church. "I know mine and mine know me." He is one with us and will not abandon us. He also gives us his mission: to reach out to the "other sheep," the Gentiles.

Our bishops are often referred to as the shepherds of the flock. In liturgical settings bishops carry a shepherd’s staff, a crozier, to symbolize their shepherding responsibility. Among their many tasks, they are to speak up for the rights of the poor and disenfranchised and to model and challenge us in our own shepherding responsibilities. We were baptized as "priests, prophets and royalty" and each of us has our unique and responsible shepherding role in the church. We especially want our bishops to have a shepherd’s compassionate voice for those who have been victimized by their church. These past years some bishops have come under severe scrutiny for what they have done, or failed to do.

The flock is better educated than times past and they expect their voices to be heard and their ministerial roles in the church respected and supported. Is it any wonder that our Eucharistic prayer specifically prays for our Pope, the Bishop of Rome, our local bishops and clergy? Right after them, in Eucharistic Prayer IV, for example, we the baptized, also shepherd, are included in the prayer... "Those who take part in this offering, those gathered here before you, your entire people and all who seek you with a sincere heart."

Of course we need prayers to strengthen us in our Christian lives. But note that we are included in the prayers with our shepherds in faith. Doesn’t that suggest our roles as shepherds too? Don’t all the baptized also need prayer to fulfill our vocation as shepherds, so that our voices also speak, like the good shepherd, for those who need guidance, protection, instruction and challenge?

As dire as these days can be for our church, with declining numbers, scandals, liturgical differences, resistance to change, etc., Jesus assures us of his unbreakable bond with us. We are not left to wander off, for today’s gospel reminds us that he is concerned about his disciples and will maintain his bond with us, even at the cost of his life. While some of our leaders and teachers may desert their flock for "greener pastures," for external rewards, or when trouble arrives. They have not invested their lives in service to their disciples; their bonds are weak, they care only for themselves.

But it may not just be a matter of outright desertion of the flock. We, who are called to ordained, or lay ministry in the church, might appear to be among the flock, but in reality our attitude and involvement might only be superficial, while keeping our hands clean and our presence cool. Pope Francis has challenged us to be among the sheep, to whom we have been sent, close enough to have the smell of the sheep on us.

In our first reading from Acts, Peter’s bold proclamation of Jesus before the religious leaders, is a sign that Jesus is shepherding his small flock. How is he doing that? The answer is in the opening line, "Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said…" The church was already facing opposition, but Jesus, the good shepherd, is faithful to his promise and is shepherding us through his promised gift of the Holy Spirit

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042218.cfm

QUOTABLE

[Here is post-Easter poem that speaks to the Good Shepherd image.]

The vision fades; the Easter joy is past;

Again in dull drab paths our lot is cast.

The heavens no longer sing. The war clouds lower.

O Lord, where art thou in thy Risen power?

The calm voice speaks – it answers all I ask,

"I am beside you in the daily task."

– Georgia Harkness

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"Give thanks to the Lord, who is good"

Psalm 118:1

Ever think about how often the word "good" appears in the Bible? Or why the word "good" is used rather than some other superlative? We know about the Good Samaritan; in today’s Gospel, Jesus is the Good Shepherd; and God pronounces creation "good" during its inception. Used over 850 times in the Bible, there is a long list of words to fully understand the meaning of this simple adjective: desirable, serviceable, suitable, whole, sound, beneficial, salutary, complete, safe, valid, genuine, ample, substantial, bountiful, full, pleasant, favorable, virtuous, and benevolent. . .and that is not all of them listed in the dictionary.

Contemplating the word "good" in the fullness of all of its meanings is especially appropriate today, April 22nd, the day that is designated as Earth Day. The focus of this year’s Earth Day is to end plastic pollution. Earth Day Network (www.earthday.org ) writes, "From poisoning and injuring marine life to disrupting human hormones, from littering our beaches and landscapes to clogging our waste streams and landfills, the exponential growth of plastics is now threatening the survival of our planet. In response, Earth Day 2018 will focus on fundamentally changing human attitude and behavior about plastics and catalyzing a significant reduction in plastic pollution." As part of Earth Day Network strategy, two of their points are "to educate and mobilize citizens across the globe to demand action from governments and corporations to control and diminish plastic pollution and to inform and activate citizens to take personal responsibility for the plastic pollution that each one of us generates by choosing to reject, reduce, reuse and recycle plastics." With the growing excitement around the 50thAnniversary of Earth Day in 2020, join in working with key constituencies and influencers to build a world of educated consumers of all ages who understand the environmental, climate and health consequences of using plastics.

Want to calculate your plastic consumption? Go to: https://www.earthday.org/plastic-calculator/

Want to create a plan to reduce your consumption? Go to: http://www.earthday.org/wp-content/uploads/Plastic-Pollution-Calculator-Plan-and-Tracker.pdf

Send your ideas or propose a partnership to: plastic@earthday.org

Earth Day is a good day to help restore the earth’s goodness by your responsible stewardship of plastics.

--Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC

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:

"I have other sheep who do not belong to this fold.

These also I must lead and they will hear my voice,

and there will be one flock, one shepherd."

Reflection:

Our baptism anoints us to be shepherds in faith. So, along with the "official shepherds" in our church we, the baptized, also need prayer to fulfill our vocation as shepherds. For our voices are to speak on behalf of the Good Shepherd, for those who need guidance, protection, instruction and challenge?

So we ask ourselves:

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out." ---Pope Francis

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:

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

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:  http://www.pfadp.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://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

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.

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: www.PreacherExchange.org - 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.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.

St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626