"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

20th SUNDAY (B) AUGUST 19, 2018

Proverbs 9: 1-6; Psalm 34; Ephesians 5: 15-20; John 6: 51-58

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

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Thank you.



 

 The 20th

Sunday

Ordinary

Time

Jesus has performed a great wonder for the people; he fed 5,000 by multiplying five loaves and two fish. John makes much of this miracle, he sees it as a "sign" of God's multiplication of goodness towards us. The abundant food Jesus provides points to the abundance of grace Jesus offers us. (It seems we can't overuse the word "abundant" when it comes to what God is offering us!) Jesus invites us to come and eat. We who want the life that God is offering us, a life that is even stronger than death, are urged to reach out to Jesus, "the bread that came down from heaven."

The first reading from Proverbs gives us added insights into today's gospel. Proverbs tells us that Wisdom has "built her house... spread her table" and offers her food and drink to the "simple." Through the images of food and drink, Wisdom is offering what is life-giving – we are invited to "eat" God's Wisdom. In John, Wisdom comes down from heaven embodied in Jesus. John tells us in his Prologue that God has spoken a Word. The very Word God used to create the world, has now become human in order to bring us eternal life. To come to know Jesus is to know the Wisdom of God. This Wisdom teaches us that, on our own, we can not multiply life for ourselves. But today we are reminded that we are the fortunate "simple" who have found wisdom. Thus, we are among those who are wise enough to go into the house Wisdom has built, sit at her table and eat.

As we continue to hear John 6 over these weeks, we recognize many allusions to the stories of our Hebrew ancestors: the feeding takes place at Passover; the multiplication is in the wilderness, where Moses also fed the Israelites with God's "bread from heaven"; Elisha fed a hundred people with 20 barley loaves, the same type of bread Jesus multiplied (barley was used to make the bread of the poor); Elisha's servant told him the bread was insufficient, as Jesus' disciples did. Remember too, that Isaiah had promised God would provide, "a feast of rich food" for all peoples, "on this mountain." Jesus does just that, he feeds the 5,000 on the mountain, a very rich food indeed! While there are such symbolic links between Jesus' feeding the crowds and the Israelites’ encounters with God, nevertheless, Jesus is doing something entirely new. He is establishing a communion between us and himself, as well as between all who sit at his table. It is a communion that will never be broken.

Several weeks ago we heard God lament that the appointed shepherds had led the Israelites astray. God resolved, "I myself will shepherd my people." As we hear today's readings from John 6, we experience the fulfillment of God's promise, In Jesus we are led by the shepherd, "through the valley of death" along "sure paths." The table is set for us at this Eucharist. The shepherd has "spread a table" for us in the sight of our foes and has provided a safe dwelling where we can eat together (cf. Psalm 23).

We have heard Wisdom's voice in the proclaimed word and now we, who are the "simple-hungry" find the best food and drink. God has again noticed our hunger and has spared nothing to nourish us for our continued journey through the wilderness of modern life. As we come forward to eat and drink we hear the promise whispered to us anew, "Someday, someday...all together in eternal life... no more hunger, no more thirst, all will be satisfied." Our preaching today, as always, is eucharistic. Through it we hope to prepare people for the eucharistic meal in which Jesus gives us his total self.

The preacher will want to point to some of the other ways our culture thinks it can multiple bread and feed us. For example. The latest technologies are such wonderful conveniences and tools. But are we a better, more loving and compassionate people because we have them? What kind of "bread" have they fed us? Are our lives truly better than before. Will we become still better when we get the latest upgrades we want? What we really want and need is a deeper, more meaningful life – John's calls it "eternal life." Jesus is Wisdom enfleshed. He has built a house for us in his own person and invites us, "Enter here, eat and drink. I am 'true food' and the cup I pour is 'true drink.' This food I give will be true to you and keep you true to God and each other. 'Come eat of my food and drink of the wine I have mixed.'" Wisdom's food is lasting and offers what we cannot accomplish on our own – but desperately need. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise you up on the last day."

To come to know Jesus, is to know the Wisdom of God. Jesus may have filled the crowd's bellies, but he is offering them and us so much more. Aren't there "signs" in our daily lives through which God continues to give us life and satisfy our hungers? This Eucharist is a sacramental sign that encourages us to "see" the divine gift before us. And the Eucharist opens our eyes to other "signs" God uses to teach us and feed us. So, today we celebrate the daily bread of divine Wisdom placed before us – in good families and friends; dedicated people with whom we work, study and minister; in creation and its daily manifestations of God's love and care for us.

The words Jesus spoke must have sounded offensive to his hearers, for no Jew would drink blood. Eating his flesh, drinking his blood still has an off-putting sound to modern ears as well. During the Eucharistic Prayer today we will hear, "Take...and eat, this is my body....Take and drink...this is my blood." Most of us have heard these words from childhood; maybe their strangeness has dissipated for us over the years. Jesus straight-forward language serves as a faith reminder today. At this Eucharist he is as close to us as the bread and wine; his life joins with ours in the eating and drinking.

Jesus invites us to come close, to acknowledge his presence and eat and drink with the confidence that, in him, God has broken down the former barriers that separated us from God and each other. God comes so very close to us in Jesus. Are we hungry for this union? Do we believe in the One we receive at this Eucharist today – believe enough to follow his ways? When we come to eat and drink it is a kind of "altar call." We rise from our current place in life and come forward to once again accept the One who is offering us an ever-nourishing food for the present stage of our journey across the wilderness. The eucharistic minister holds up the bread and says, "the Body of Christ." We say, with hungry faith, "Amen." Another minister holds up the cup and says,"the Blood of Christ" and we who are hungry and thirsty simply say, "Amen." As the first reading reminds us, "Wisdom has built her house...dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table..., she calls from the heights out over the city: 'Let whoever is simple turn in here....come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!'"

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081918.cfm

QUOTABLE

From my work with local pastors and seminarians, I am convinced that one of the practices that gets most shortchanged in the sermon preparation process—and one of the junctures that holds most promise for strengthening contextuality in preaching–is the initial encounter between the preacher and the biblical text

PREACHING AS LOCAL THEOLOGY6 AND FOLK ART,

Leonora Tubbs Tisdale, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997,page 104.

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns

Proverbs 9:1

What exactly are Wisdom’s seven columns? They seem to be listed in James 3:17: "But the wisdom that is from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity." How many of us, as followers of Jesus, see these attributes in Jesus’ life and seek to emulate our master teacher in our own lives? For example, to be "full of mercy and good fruits" implies helpfulness and service. How often do you step out of your box to offer yourself in service to others?

Since the late 1980’s, I have been a volunteer (wearing many different hats) with Habitat for Humanity. In my encounter with struggling working families, I find common joys and hopes, pain and distress. I also find that Catholic spirituality can be discovered in service to others. Almost every single Christian mystic, upon returning from their "mountaintop" experience, turn to service with the poor or disadvantaged. What do you think they experienced on that summit? Perhaps, the vast love that they experienced, passed through them and found them wanting to pass it on to others. Love of God and love of neighbor--the great directive that fulfills all other laws.

This coming September 15th, the Habitat for Humanity Catholic Coalition, which includes Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, will be starting to build its ninth house over ten consecutive weekends in the Crosstowne subdivision in SE Raleigh. Habitat builds in partnership with a working poor family that has agreed to provide sweat equity as their down payment and will pay a mortgage. Building each house is a time of great expectation for everyone involved, a new way of life of home ownership that had previously eluded the Habitat family and, also, a new world view for the team members on the build. We need parishioners willing to provide labor and to provide lunches. We invite you to join in sharing your love, the love that flows from God through you, in this wonderful endeavor. Contact Walt Milowic, HNOJ coordinator, through the staff office at socialconcern@hnojnc.org

While we build this house, you will be building wisdom’s house within yourself--a life of genuine wisdom founded upon the fear of the Lord and supported by the columns of genuine purity, peace, gentleness, reasonableness, service, humility, and sincerity.

---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 Proverbs reading:

Wisdom... has spread her table... she calls from the heights out over the city.... "Come, eat my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!

Forsake the foolishness that you may live; advanced in the way of understanding."

Reflection:

Wisdom takes flesh in Jesus, who reveals God’s love and concern that we take in the right kind of nourishment. God says to us, "I see your hungers that only I can fully satisfy. I send you my Son, Receive the food and drink he offers you – his very self." Like Wisdom in Proverbs, Jesus sets a table and invites us to be nourished on himself, "true food... true drink."

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: www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

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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.

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3. Our webpage: 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