On the first night of a parish retreat I noticed the arrival of a
group of about eight young adults; one couple had an infant in arms.
With them were some older members of the parish, the "stalwarts." I
was struck by the energy of the group, their enthusiasm and
involvement in our prayer service and the obvious bonds among them –
maybe not so much of friendship, but community. I saw them after the
service, introduced myself and asked if they were neighbors,
co-workers or a special group in the parish. One young woman
responded, "We’re the catechumens." That brief response explained a
lot; their enthusiasm, sense of community and a shared weekday-night
prayer service. I wished their enthusiasm would rub off on the rest
of us "cradle Catholics."
That group of catechumens comes to mind this Sunday, the first
Sunday in Lent. They remind us and call us to enter more fully into
our Lenten journey. Of course, Lent is about the catechumens
preparing for baptism. But it is also about those of us who have
been around for a while and have gotten into a rut, or have tried a
few diversionary paths. This new season is a chance for us to be
refreshed in faith; an opportunity to think about the renewal of our
baptismal commitment we will profess at Easter. We fix our eyes on
that coming moment of personal and communal renewal and during Lent
we do what we can to make that renewal one of total commitment; a
moment when we do our best to make one big "Yes" to the life of the
Spirit of Jesus within us. This Lent we pray for the enthusiasm of
those catechumens and ask for a sense of rediscovery in our faith,
as if we were entering it for the first time.
We might pray for a refreshed faith in the God of the Genesis
passage. The story tells of God’s covenant with Noah. It takes place
right after the Flood. The writer is tracing the covenant between
God and Israel, but notice that "every living creature" is included.
God is the God of all creation and despite any future sin on our
part, will not go back on the covenant God has made with us. The
passage has the famous story of the rainbow. The rainbow is not to
serve as a reminder to us of God’s covenant; but it is a sign to God
"to recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all
living beings...." No matter how far adrift we go; no matter that we
might forget God, the author of Genesis says God will never forget
us. This first Sunday of Lent begins with a strong reminder that God
has bound God’s self to an everlasting relationship with us and will
never let go. Such a lover-God is a strong attraction to us this
Lent. We have nothing to fear from this God as we turn away from
other gods of modern life and return to the everlasting God who has
made a covenant with "every living creature."
The first Sunday of Lent always begins with Jesus’ temptation in
the desert. Each of the synoptic gospels has its own take on the
story. This year we have Mark’s. It is brief and leaves out the
details told by Matthew and Luke. The preacher should avoid the
temptation to "fill in the blanks" by going to the other gospel
accounts. We need to respect Mark’s narrative and listen to what it
has to say to us as we begin our Lenten desert journey.
Mark almost dismisses Jesus’ temptation. He covers it in a terse
line, "The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert and he remained in
the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild
beasts, and the angels ministered to him." That’s it! We are
reminded of what John the Baptist said just a few verses earlier. He
promised, "After me will come one more powerful than I...." Well,
Mark’s temptation account certainly shows how powerful Jesus is. As
we enter this Lent we may feel our own resolve to change is
wishy-washy. It’s another Lent, perhaps we are thinking, "here we go
again." We lack the catechumens’ enthusiasm, we have been around the
block more than a few times! How do we make this Lent a fresh
experience? How do we gather the spiritual desire and energy to
change? How will we even know the areas in us where change is
After John spoke about the "one more powerful than I," John said,
"he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." There’s the source of
our renewal; there’s the One who can fill us with the desire to
change and make that change possible. Jesus will baptize us anew
with his Spirit this Lent to make our wizened spirits new again.
Lent is truly a season of hope in which we discover that what is
impossible for us, is possible for God.
In the desert Israel was tested and gave into temptation. Just as
Israel spent forty years in the desert, now Jesus spends forty days.
Like Israel he is tempted there, but he does not give in. Mark tells
us that there were wild beasts with Jesus in the desert. For other
humans that would be a scary place to be; but in Jesus, God is
reconciling humans and nature. The desert losses its hostile
qualities; with Jesus there it is a peaceable kingdom – the messiah
has reconciled humans and "wild beasts." Lent provides an
opportunity to confront the "wild beasts" of our lives. Think here
of the aggression, competition, insatiable desires that have control
over us and our nation. They are wild beasts, un-tameable. But they
do not have to have dominion over us, for we have been baptized into
Jesus, the powerful One, who overcomes the tests in the desert and
makes peace between opposing forces. We are also told that in this
place of testing and hostile forces, there were also ministering
We pass through many periods of testing in our lives, times when
our very identity as Christians is seriously challenged. Powerful
but subtle forces pull at us and we can feel solitary in our
struggle against them. But there are "angels" ministering to us in
the deserts of our lives: when an addiction seem impossible to break
and we find help in a group; when we are distraught over the death
of a loved one and other widowed friends share their stories and
give us courage; when we are laid up in bed with a broken leg or bad
back and friends come by to relieve the loneliness; when our faith
is dry and we go to church wondering why we bother and the prayer
and faith of other worshipers give us hope; when we want to be a
peacemaker, live a simpler life, or choose the path of service and
we hear nothing but the voices of naysayers. Then the lives of the
saints and stories of contemporary Christians are our "angels" in
the wilderness, ministering to us, enabling us to be faithful to the
call we hear and are trying to live out. Other "angels" may not be
as tangible, but nevertheless minister to us in the desert. Our
ideals and dreams, (our "angels"?) if we stay with them, may lift us
up, sustain us through difficult and testing times in our lives.
Deserts – what are they for us? The hard testing times when we
wander and wonder? Are they the anxiety of losing a job and
wondering where God is? Are they the temptations to compromise our
ideals? Should we go back on a promise made? Should we cut corners
in our lives and live with less integrity? In the desert of the
Jews, as they faced temptations and even betrayed God, God stayed
with them and lead them out. Genesis reminds us that God sees the
sign, the rainbow, and stays faithful to the covenant God made with
all living beings. God makes sure that we do not have to pass
through our deserts alone and visits us in various "angelic" ways.
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
ONE GOOD BOOK FOR THE
|WOMEN IN SCRIPTURE:
A DICTIONARY OF NAME AND UNNAMED WOMEN IN THE HEBREW
BIBLE, THE APOCRYPHAL/DEUTEROCANONICAL BOOKS AND THE NEW
TESTAMENT. Carol Meyers (ed.) Grand Rapids: William
B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000. Paper $30, 592 pages.
title pretty well describes this book. The book shows
what some more traditional commentaries neglect, the
influence of women in biblical times. There are very
good introductory essays on the Hebrew, Apocryphal and
New Testament texts with special emphasis on how they
pertain to women. Also included is an essay on feminist
"Remember that your compassion, O Lord, and your
love are from of old." Psalm 25: 6
Remembering has a very important role in the Bible and is used,
depending on your Bible translation, from 148 to 168 times. In both
testaments, the process of remembering is active, personal, and
rooted in relationship. In today’s scripture passage, God is asked
to remember compassion and love in order to act with these qualities
and make them effective in God’s dealings with human beings. We
should also remember the compassion and love that is rooted in us as
children of God. Through the traditions of prayer, fasting and
almsgiving of Lent, we remember.
Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, former chairman
of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offers "10 Things to
Remember for Lent" and it is the ninth and tenth one that I will
9. Reach out in charity. As we experience weakness and
suffering during Lent, we should be renewed in our compassion for
those who are hungry, suffering or otherwise in need. The third part
of the Lenten formula is almsgiving. It’s about more than throwing a
few extra dollars in the collection plate; it’s about reaching out
to others and helping them without question as a way of sharing the
experience of God’s unconditional love.
10. Learn to love like Christ. Giving of ourselves in the midst
of our suffering and self-denial brings us closer to loving like
Christ, who suffered and poured himself out unconditionally on the
cross for all of us. Lent is a journey through the desert to the
foot of the cross on Good Friday, as we seek him out, ask his help,
join in his suffering, and learn to love like him."
I have found one of the best ways to remember the compassion and
love of God, is to form a relationship with those who are struggling
in life by giving of my time, talent, and funds and by thinking with
my heart as to how I can help build a more just world. We have many
opportunities here at Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral to help in your
"remembering." Check out
> parish > social justice and enrich your journey with Jesus today.
Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social
Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
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 Genesis reading:
bring the clouds over the earth,
bow appears in the clouds,
recall the covenant I have made between me
and you an
all living beings...."
The rainbow is not to serve as a reminder to us of God’s covenant
with us. Instead, it is a sign to God, a "reminder," that no matter
how far adrift we go; no matter that we might forget God, the author
of Genesis says, God will never forget us.
So we ask ourselves:
- Do we believe that nothing can separate us from the love God
has for us?
- What effect does that have on how we see ourselves and those
POSTCARDS TO DEATH
"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
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:
- Warren Gregory #0156518 (On death row since 5/18/93)
- David Lynch #0251740 (5/27/93)
- Jeffrey Barrett #0021418 (6/1/93)
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
"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
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
Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage
to make an online donation:
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:
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
3. Our webpage:
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
you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the
Great Priory of Texas
Vince Hagan Drive
First Impressions Archive
Click on a link button below to view the reflection indicated.
(The newest items are always listed first.)