7th SUNDAY OF EASTER (B) MAY 13, 2018

Acts 1: 15-17, 20a, 20c-26; Psalm 47; 1 John 4: 11-16; John 17: 11b-19

By: Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

PRE-NOTE: Welcome to the latest email recipients of "First Impressions" the parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes in Atlanta and Holy Innocents in Pleasantville, New York.

Many dioceses in our country will be celebrating the feast of the Ascension on this Sunday.
Click here to view our "First Impressions" reflection for the Ascension.



Sunday of



I was at a parish recently that was celebrating its 60th anniversary. The regular parishioners were there, but also those who had moved away, and came back for the festival. Some of the regulars, the "old timers," were in the parish since its beginning! Others were recent arrivals from other places in the country and from around the world. Such diversity had initially stirred resentment among some of the parishioners, but now they celebrated the "new blood" in their parish.

The community had prayed and been nourished together in their faith at various stages of their lives – baptisms, weddings, anniversaries and funerals. They had found strength when they were under stress, when they prayed for themselves, their children and grandchildren. The wider world’s problems were also frequently mentioned in the homilies and prayers – recent flood victims, fleeing refugees, those addicted to opioids, the sick and dying, members who were in the military, etc. The parishioners could say, "We feel right at home here."

Our parish church has often provided us with a community to celebrate our joys, as well as offer us solace and comfort when we needed it. It has introduced us to a big family that has nothing to do with blood lines, skin color, language, or place of origin. Here, at very special moments, and even ordinary ones, we felt we could almost touch the mystery of God.

There is something else: While we have been strengthened and comforted in our worshiping community and enabled to return to face our lives "out there," still, it should also have been a place where we were made restless and uncomfortable – if the gospel was the focus of preaching and our worship.

In today’s gospel, Jesus is praying for his disciples, whom he is about to leave behind. He is praying for us as well. "I gave them your word, and the world hated them." While the Word of God, Christ’s gift to us, can reassure us and give us comfort, it also should make us uncomfortable, for it questions our lives, probes our values and challenges how we treat one another. No escape here! In this place, as we gather week after week and listen to Christ’s words, we are made aware that we are not yet fully the disciples Jesus calls us to be: not yet, forgiving, compassionate, loving and just.

God’s Word should stir up a discomfit and restlessness in us, because it shares a vision that is far from fulfilled in our world. As we listen to the scriptures proclaimed to us each week, we hear a vision in which: all people are treated equally; the forgotten and outsiders are welcomed and valued; respect is shown the least; women are considered equals; love and comfort is given to the castoffs and exiles and we hear a voice speaking on behalf of the voiceless. Jesus’ proclaims a reign that reflects God’s vision for us. When we gather we pray, "Thy kingdom come." In other words, "Let it be here as you want it to be." And, "Let us be part of fulfilling your vision."

Jesus prays today: "I have given them your word." It is not just so we can "get to heaven" in the next life, but the word he gives us is for now, in this life. It is a word of strength and comfort, if we need it. It is also a word of discomfort, to open our eyes to what is not yet in our world and needs our attention.

Jesus prays to his Father about us: "I gave them your word and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world." He repeats himself, "They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world." Why, what’s wrong with the world? Isn’t it a lovely place, created by God that reflects the care and love of the Creator?

That’s not the world Jesus is speaking about. The "world" in St. John’s gospel has special meaning. He is not speaking of the people God has created, nor the natural world God declared "good" in Genesis. Jesus has a specific "world" in mind: it is the world that rejects Jesus’ values; those who oppress, torture, ignore the poor, take advantage of the frail, violate innocence and deprive people of their rights. In other words, it is the world that crushed Jesus and attempted to wipe out his message.

That’s the world Jesus was leaving his disciples in. It is where we have to live his truth, that strives to overcome us and what we believe. It has great power and is determined to harm us. On our own, we don’t stand a chance. But we are not on our own, he has prayed for us and has given us his Spirit, to fire us up and enable us to face the world that rejects him.

Jesus also gives us his presence in the Word proclaimed and his body and blood, at this celebration, to comfort and strengthen us for the task he has commissioned us. In a world that rejects goodness, justice and love, the Eucharist is also the "food of discontent." The Eucharist stirs us up, not to be satisfied with our world as it is, but to do something small and sometimes large, to change the way things are... to the way God wants them to be.

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



Whenever we do admit the true, gentle power of the Spirit into our lives, we are liberated from self-insistence, the futile attempts to force meaning and happiness on our terms alone on our lives. We can become the mystery inside ourselves we are meant to be. We can become simpler, gentler, stronger, lighter, more just, more wise.


—Clyde F. Crews, SEASONS OF THE SPIRIT: EXPLORING CONTEMPORARY SPIRITUALITY. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1992, page 40. ISBN 0-8146-2081-7


Walter Burghardt, SJ, renowned preacher, theologian (editor in chief for 44 years of "Theological Studies") and founder and co-director of the Woodstock Theological Center’s program "Preaching the Just Word," once listed the following "eight areas of serious injustice in our country.

And a stirring call to action. God’s word in Scripture---from Psalm 72, Micah 6:8, and Isaiah 58:6 7 to Jesus, "the Just One"-impelled me to lecture, preach and write in eight areas of serious injustice.

(1) In the richest country on earth, 12.6 million households, with approximately 13 million children, experience hunger with increasing incidence of malnutrition.

(2) In the United States the elderly face uncertainty that was unheard of half a century ago. Pension benefits, including health insurance, are being yanked away with no warning )even more shocking, these assaults are inflicted with the blessing of the government.

(3) Here, where the Statue of Liberty still proclaims a warm welcome to immigrants, far too many persons whose parents or grandparents came to this country as recently as the last century are eager to close the borders and take care only of "our own,"

(4) Our criminal justice system is not fair, impartial or balanced, in part because its focus continues to be on punishment, rarely on rehabilitation.

(5) It is clear that innocent people in the United States have been executed; the only question is how many. By contrast, the European Union bans from its membership any country that still practices capital punishment.

(6) By not adequately responding to the ecological realities of the link between global warming and devastating hurricanes, as well as the alarming cause and effect of deforestation and mudslides, water pollution and poisoned fish, smog and life-threatening lung illnesses, we are not only killing our planet, we are also killing ourselves.

(7) The traditional Catholic conditions for declaring a war just-defensive necessity, the last resort, approval of a large number of nations, endorsement of the United Nations, high probability of success-were not met by the Bush administration in the 2003 pre-emptive attack on Iraq.

(8) A blot on our national conscience and international standing is the shocking number of homeless veterans (the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates 500,000 veterans experience homelessness in a given year). Despite various pieces of legislation aimed at meeting special needs of homeless veterans, many will be ignored and left to fend for themselves on the very streets they fought to keep safe.


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 prayed]

"I gave them your word, and the world hated them,

because they do not belong to the world,

any more than I belong to the world."


While the Word of God, Christ’s gift to us, can reassure us and give us comfort, it also should make us uncomfortable, for it questions our lives, probes our values and challenges how we treat one another.

So we ask ourselves:


"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:

Charles P. Bond #0036850 (On death row since 3/24/95)

----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/


"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

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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: 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