"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

4th SUNDAY OF ADVENT (B) December 24, 2017

2 Samuel 7: 1-5, 8b-12, 14a,16; Psalm 89; Romans 16: 25-27; Luke 1: 26-38

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

AN END OF THE YEAR APPEAL

I know, like me, you have had programs interrupted on public radio and television for fundraising. Allow me to do a similar thing. We need your help for "PreacherExchange.com" and "First Impressions." We have kept the Spanish and English internet preaching and liturgical resources free so those in poorer parishes and the developing world can have access to them. Judging from the emails I get that is exactly what is happening. Will you help us continue to do that?

At the priory we pray for our benefactors daily. Please let us know if you have any special Advent petitions. We will pray for them. And please pray for our preaching mission. Thank you.

Send tax deductible checks to:

"First Impressions"

Payable To:  Dominican Friars

3150 Vince Hagan Dr.

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Or: For a secure online donation (Via Credit Card, eCheck, or PayPal): Go to: www.preacherexchange.com/donations.htm and click on the appropriate link.

Thank you.


Our second reading today is the closing of Paul’s letter to the Romans. The passage is a doxology and such prayers are common in our liturgical celebrations. Both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures frequently break out in doxologies. The word "doxa" is usually translated as "glory." The scriptures give glory when God’s power and holiness shine through people and events.

Doxologies are our prayerful responses to the experience of God in our lives. When we perceive God’s splendor – we give glory. Sometimes God’s glory comes in a cloud,32 or shines forth in the Temple (cf. Ex. 29: 43; Numbers 16:19; Isaiah 6; and many psalms). When we behold God’s glory we profess a doxology: "Glory to God" – "Praise God," etc. Note the number of times we use "glory," or similar words of praise, in today’s Eucharistic celebration..

In Romans, Paul has emphasized God’s glory shining forth in Christ’s life, death and resurrection. When we come to faith and perceive that glory we, in turn, give glory to God. In response to the mystery of God revealed in Christ, the Holy Spirit stirs up praise in us, helping us put into words what is inexplicable. In the gospel stories people break out spontaneously into doxologies when they encounter God’s glory in Christ’s words and works. At our Christmas midnight liturgy we will hear Luke’s narration of the appearance of the heavenly hosts to the shepherds. The angels will shine with the "glory of the Lord" and will give praise to God (Luke 2:14) for what God is doing in the birth of the savior.

Frequently in his letters Paul will break out in a doxology (e.g. Eph. 3: 20-21; Phil: 2: 5-11) as he does today in his closing words in Romans. In the letter Paul has given us a glimpse into God’s power and mercy manifested in Jesus. He encourages us to reflect on and recognize for ourselves God’s wonderful works of grace in our own lives and then to give glory to God. Our responsibility, he tells us (Rom 12 ff.) is to live lives that reflect the glory we have received through Christ. In other words, our very lives should become a doxology as we "glorify God in our human bodies" (1 Cor. 6: 19).

Thus, the letter to the Romans ends as it began (1:2-5) proclaiming God’s plan of salvation which the prophets promised and was fulfilled in Christ – a plan now made known through Paul’s "proclamation of Jesus Christ," now "made know to all nations." Give glory to God because God has reached out to save all humanity (and creation itself) through Christ.

The gospel scene that announces the coming birth of the savior has been frequently portrayed. The Renaissance artist Fra Angelico has a lovely painting of the Annunciation which now hangs in San Marco’s museum in Florence. The museum was a Dominican priory and Fra Angelico painted religious themes on the cell walls of the friars, especially the novices, to help them contemplate and study the mysteries of faith. In the painting Mary is seated on a wooden bench in a portico. Her demeanor is peaceful and her garments neat. There is sunlight and the angel is magnificent! Much in the scene would encourage a life of quiet and prayer. But, while we don’t live in the same setting as those friars did, still Fra Angelico’s painting can still a restless soul and open us to the mystery of God – if only for a few moments in a hectic life.

But there is something else suggested in this gospel today – and it isn’t so peaceful. Notice the opening verses. The angel is sent "to a town in Galilee called Nazareth." Sounds harmless enough, doesn’t it? But Galilee was a troublesome place, where the vast majority of the people were very poor peasants. In Galilee, insurrections and nationalism frequently bubbled to the surface. Galileans were a suspect people and their land a place where people struggled for freedom. It was in Galilee that God chose to take flesh; Jesus was a Galilean.

Mary lived in a troubled land. What was she doing before the angel Gabriel arrived? Fra Angelico has her tranquilly seated, as if she were meditating. Some painters have her kneeling on the floor in a prayerful position. But maybe she was kneading bread, stitching clothes, or trying to start a cooking fire. Perhaps she had been at her door and heard rumors of still one more insurrection in her land. We certainly don’t want Mary’s life to seem artificial, or foreign to what we moderns experience. We don’t want to abstract her from our similar daily experiences and concerns.

One more look at the passage shows that "she was greatly troubled" at Gabriel’s announcement. And "she pondered what sort of greeting this might be." The angel has to quickly reassure her, "do not be afraid." She must have been afraid! Mary’s Galilee was a conflicted land and her responses show her own inner confusion and doubt. But she doesn’t get a road map from the angel to clear up the present and tell her where the future would take her. Instead, she must make room for God in her life and trust. Which is what we must do too, when we say our own "Yes" to God.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/122417.cfm

QUOTABLE

Paul says the "hour" to wake from our sleep has arrived. Every moment is God’s "time," the kairos moment of salvation.... Fully clothed in the garments of salvation, we watch for the day not in fear but in joyful anticipation.

—Kay Murdy, Seasons of Emmanuel

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"I have been with you wherever you went"

2 Samuel 7:9

It will be 2023 before Christmas Eve again falls on the Fourth Sunday of Advent and the conjunction of these two solemnities seems to heighten the revelation of God’s mystery. Already, in the Old Testament, God tells King David that the Divine preference is to always dwell among the people despite David’s thinking that a brick and mortar house should be built for God who never asked for one. And so, this Christmas Eve, let us ponder the mystery of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us by using the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

457 The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God. . . "Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us."--St. Gregory of Nyssa

458 The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God's love. . .

459 The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness. . . This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.

460 The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature". . .

461 Taking up St. John's expression, "The Word became flesh" [Jn 1:14], the Church calls "Incarnation" the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it.

462 The Letter to the Hebrews refers to the same mystery:

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, Lo, I have come to do your will, O God" [Heb. 10:5-7].

463 Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God."[1 Jn 4:2] Such is the joyous conviction of the Church from her beginning whenever she sings "the mystery of our religion": "He was manifested in the flesh"[1Tim 3:16].

Fiat! [Let it happen!] and Have a Blessed Christmas.

----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:

But Mary was greatly troubled at what [the angel] said to her

and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

Reflection:

Mary’s Galilee was a conflicted land and her responses show her own inner confusion and doubt. But she doesn’t get a road map from the angel to clear up the present and tell her where the future would take her. Instead, she makes room for God in her life and trusts. Which is what we must do too, when we say our own "Yes" to God.

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/

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

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: 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