"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

 6th SUNDAY OF EASTER (B) May 6, 2018

ACTS 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48; Psalm 98; 1 JOHN 4: 7-10; JOHN 15: 9-17

By Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

 

 Sixth

Sunday

EASTER

2018

During the weeks after Easter the gospels have been about Jesus’ resurrection appearances to his disciples. But last Sunday and today one detects a shift. Now we are hearing words from Jesus’ farewell discourses at the Last Supper. Though we are still in Easter time, the words proclaimed to us are from the night before the crucifixion. Why? Possibly because Jesus’ discourse is about farewell, assurances, last instructions and promises – though the disciples were going to lose him in one way, the church and world would have him in another. In our liturgical celebrations these recent Sundays we are preparing to celebrate the Ascension, Jesus’ return to the right hand of God and Pentecost, the sending of his Spirit upon the church. We can take heart that Jesus, like a departing parent, has seen to the welfare of his disciples who are to remain in the world to carry on his work.

One thing is clear in the final discourses and in today’s section: Jesus promises to stay in relationship to his church. He did not come just for a period of time to get things started, go away and then return someday to see how we did. To put it in another way: he didn’t come to live a model human life for us to imitate and then leave us on our own to live up to his example. He isn’t up ahead at the "pearly gates" waiting for us to arrive and check out how we measured up to his splendid example. Will he let us in, or tell us that we failed to do as he told us?

We don’t just need a model of ideal behavior upon whom to fashion our lives. We need a savior who, once having lived and died for us, will stay with us to guide and enable us to imitate his own living and dying. Today, as last Sunday, we hear the importance of "remaining" or "abiding" in Jesus. This staying in Jesus will be the way we can live his commandment of love. One thing is very clear in this discourse; we can live Jesus’ life because he graces us to do so. Without our relationship with him, we would be left on our own to do our best to follow his life and live his commands. And the truth is, on our own, we wouldn’t be able to live such a life. Without Jesus’ abiding, grace-giving presence, neither we individuals, nor our church, can live the life he calls us to today: "Love one another as I have loved you." His love is the kind that lays down his life for another.

Some people think the church has gone soft since Vatican II. Now, they complain, all we hear is talk about love. They would prefer the stricter black and white commands they remember from their childhood. But we are not children. The teaching about love goes back to our Founder; it is not a recent innovation, or a new-age trend. Jesus does lay down a commandment for us today, but he does so, he says, not as a master talking to servants, but as a friend to other friends. Servants follow rules, their lives are dictated by the one who holds authority over them. Jesus’ religion isn’t based on such a model. Instead, love is the foundation of our faith. We are assured we already have God’s love, it is not something we must earn by minute adherence to a code of proper behavior. Jesus is asking us to live out of the realization of that love. We are his friends, he tells us, so now go out and live like friends with one another. "Friends," in this context, means "beloved ones." We need to live out of that description for we are the beloved disciples.

We apply various titles to ourselves as Jesus’ followers: we may, at different times or under unique circumstances, call ourselves his ambassadors, apostles, messengers, servants, etc. These terms certainly apply and are used elsewhere in the scriptures. But at this moment, before his departure, he wants to make sure his disciples know they are his beloved, so loved by him that he will give his life for them. Farewell speeches are important moments in a great person’s life. They are often written down by devoted disciples eager to remember what a great teacher considered important enough to leave behind. Jesus knows the world will be rough on those who follow him and his teachings. He wants them to know that, no matter how difficult things get, they are beloved. Their "success" in the world won’t be by the ordinary standards of achievement, stature, property acquired, popularity, etc. They won’t have the usual measurable signs which people normally associate with a successful life or project. Instead, what they and we have are his words, "As the Father loves me, I also love you...remain in my love."

I am sure we have preached this before, but it might bear repeating. People generally imagine the love Jesus speaks of is the love we feel for our closest friends, sweethearts and family members. But his word here for love is "agape" and that means something else. It has nothing to do with instinctual feeling that is stirred up by something attractive in another person, or because that person is a family member. It doesn’t even necessarily mean liking another person. Rather, it means being willing to go out of the way for others; acting for their good and well being; coming to their aid when they need help – even at our own personal expense. Jesus showed how far agape can take someone when he gave up his life for us. God’s love for the world has nothing to do with our being intrinsically loveable in the ordinary sense of the world – or even likeable! Jesus’ death on the cross is a perfect reflection of how God feels about us. God loved us, was willing to go out of the way to show us that love, and acted for our well being.

Another aspect of this "remaining," or "abiding" with Jesus, is that in this relationship we will "bear fruit that will remain." The advantage of using metaphors is that they have so many applications. "Bearing fruit" is one of those multivalent terms that can be applied in innumerable ways. In John’s gospel bearing fruit refers to preaching and giving witness to Jesus by the love we show to the world. Though Jesus is leaving, his disciples have an on-going relationship with him, we "remain" with him and he with us.

What are the characteristics of this relationship with Jesus? Like any relationship, it is maintained by communication; Jesus continues to pour out his Spirit upon us and we both receive and respond to the Spirit’s presence. The response Jesus mentions in this passage is one of complete joy. We may be in a world that confuses us and at times, seems to want to swallow us up; but remaining with Christ gives us the assurance of his presence and this produces joy, even in situations we would not describe as "happy" or "easy." Just as the world did not conquer him, our abiding in him assures us we will be able to navigate life’s waters, even in stormy and difficult times.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050618.cfm

ONE GOOD BOOK FOR THE PREACHER

John J. Markey, OP, Creating Communion: The Theology of the Constitutions of the Church. New York: New City Press, 2003. Paper, 192 pages. ISBN 1-56548-179-8.

Starts with a review of Catholic theology of the Church prior to Vatican II, and then presents a contemporary ecclesiology, with emphasis on communion and community. This is a very good introduction to ecclesiology and accessible to the educated lay reader. The author holds great hope for the future of the church and the book could be used as a study for parish religious education groups.

QUOTABLE

Whenever we as human family or local church gather either in small or large groups, to celebrate or to make plans for the future, or to search for God’s truth for our selves and our world, we need likewise to look around and to ask, "Who’s missing? Who’s not here who should be here?"

-----Mary O’Driscoll, O.P.

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him."
Acts 10:34-35

I cannot read this scripture passage without understanding that the color of a person’s skin has nothing to do with what God considers important. In the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ 1979 Pastoral Letter on Racism, "Brothers and Sisters to Us," racism is clearly defined:

"Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father. Racism is the sin that says some human beings are inherently superior and others essentially inferior because of races. It is the sin that makes racial characteristics the determining factor for the exercise of human rights. It mocks the words of Jesus: "Treat others the way you would have them treat you." (4) Indeed, racism is more than a disregard for the words of Jesus; it is a denial of the truth of the dignity of each human being revealed by the mystery of the Incarnation."

It is important to always put yourself in the other person’s shoes in order to understand the damage racism causes. Martin Luther King Jr. gives us this view during his life:

"Being a Negro in America is not a comfortable existence. It means being part of the company of the bruised, the battered, the scarred, and the defeated. Being a Negro in America means trying to smile when you want to cry. It means trying to hold on to physical life amid psychological death. It means the pain of watching your children grow up with clouds of inferiority in their mental skies. It means having your legs cut off, and then being condemned for being a cripple. It means seeing your mother and father spiritually murdered by the slings and arrows of daily exploitation, and then being hated for being an orphan. Being a Negro in America. . .means being harried by day and haunted by night by a nagging sense of nobodiness and constantly fighting to be saved from the poison of bitterness. It means the ache and anguish of living in so many situations where hopes unborn have died."

Racism is not of God.

---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:

[Jesus said to his disciples]

"It is not you who chose me, but I who chose you

and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain..."

Reflection:

Jesus assures us that we already have God’s love; it is not something we must earn by minute adherence to a code of proper behavior. Jesus is asking us to live out of the realization of that love. We are his "friends," he tells us, so now go out and live like friends with one another – bear fruit.

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:

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.

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.

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