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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "

TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD -- August 6, 2017

Daniel 7: 9-10, 13-14 Psalm 97 2 Peter 1: 16-19 Matthew 17: 1-9

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

 

  The Trans-

figuration

Of the

Lord

A friend’s job requires a lot of flying. Like a lot of us who fly frequently he has a routine. He boards a flight, takes his seat, usually in business class, fastens his seatbelt, accepts coffee from the flight attendant, reads the financial news and thumbs through reports. He has flown so often he pays little attention to the flight attendant’s safety instructions: where the emergency doors are, floor lighting to the exits, fastened seatbelts etc. He told me, "I could give those instructions by heart. So, I ignore the them, sip my coffee, read my reports, and jot notes about the upcoming meeting."

Recently, on a flight to Cleveland, as the plane began to descend, the pilot came on and said, "We may have a problem." Above the sounds of the engine and the concerned chatter of his fellow passengers, he heard phrases like this, "Not sure if the landing gear is coming down... Need to circle... May have to expel fuel... Pay attention to the flight attendant’s instructions...." He said, "Everyone put down their newspapers, closed their computers, stopped sipping coffee and were all ears. We listened to the instructions about the emergency exits, life jackets, floor lighting etc. I knew that if we crashed following those instructions could mean the difference between life and death."

Perhaps situations might not be as dramatic still, what my friend said is true in many aspects of life. Words spoken to us at just the right time can make a significant difference for us. Well-intentioned words from someone we respect can stop us from continuing on a wrong or aimless path. They can instigate and guide us to make changes that result in a meaningful, more better-directed life.

The disciples went with Jesus to an out-of-the-way place, a mountaintop. In many ancient, or primitive religions, mountain tops were thought to be the dwelling places of the gods, where sacred encounters might happen. Even now, among modern people, mountains are good places to go apart from the hustle and bustle of daily life. They can make good listening places at times when we need to reflect, or make an important decision. From a mountain you can see a long distance; so it is a conducive place for insight and perspective. In the kind of world most of us live we need an opportunity to reflect on the long view, so we can see and get perspective on our lives. When we choose to go on a retreat, a walk in the woods, speak to a counselor, not turn on the radio in our car, etc. it is as if they are responding to the invitation Jesus gave to his disciples, to come apart for a while. We are choosing to do what the disciples heard from the cloud, "Listen to him."

On that mountain the disciples got more than they expected. They had a momentary glimpse into how special Jesus was. They heard a voice, a Big Voice, that guided them, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." Jesus asked them not to tell anyone about the vision, "Until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead." That sounded like the future was going to be bleak for them, because Jesus was talking about his death. That was not something they were prepared to hear. It was obvious they still had much more to learn about following Jesus.

Just prior to today’ passage Jesus predicted the suffering and death that awaited him in Jerusalem. Peter tried to dissuade him and Jesus rebuked him and told him and the others that if they wished to be his disciples, they must take up their cross and follow him. Perhaps that was something else that struck fear in the hearts of the disciples on the mountain: not just the awesome presence and call of the Holy One, but what might be asked of them if they continued to follow the Lord. Which might give us all a pause to ask, "What cross am I being asked to take up, or continue to carry, in the name of Jesus?"

We may not have such a spectacular revelation as those disciples, but like them, we have come apart today to this place of worship – a good listening place. Here we hear again the voice that directs us, "Listen to him." In the scriptures proclaimed to us we pay close attention, not only to his words, but his actions as well, for they reveal Jesus’ heart to us. They tell us about God’s forgiveness, compassion and unfaltering love for us. As we listen closely we hear Jesus tell us to do for others what he is about to do for us: pick up our cross of service and follow him.

The voice we hear on this mountain today is on our side. It speaks for our well-being and happiness. It directs us to listen to Jesus, for there are many competing voices that might lure us to another way of living than the one Jesus has called us to. Worshiping together gives us an opportunity to have our hearing checked; a time to unplug our ears and try listening anew. We also want to foster a daily habit listening by asking, "What is Jesus saying to me in the people and events of this day?" Then, we listen and do our best to discern his response.

In the light of what Jesus has said to us we ask: Is what I call a "successful life" really that? Whose standards am I measuring by? Are my "blessings" really from God’s hands, or just through my own hard work, without much thought to Christ? Is what I call "happiness" truly deep and secure, or is it based on something very transitory and fragile at its roots, easily lost, or ripped out of my hands?

Listening to Jesus’ words, I need to reevaluate my priorities and direction. What I would call a "failure," might result in something entirely new and unexpected in my life and yield the deepest joy for me. What has been a death of a dream, might really have been about my own ambition and may be the opening of a door to a whole other perspective on life.

As we gather today we check our hearing, like the man in the plane, listening for instructions that are life-giving. We need to pay attention to the details of our daily lives. After all, who wants to wake up someday at a place, or stage in life and say, "How did I get here?" Or, in the language of air travel, I don’t want to come to the realization that I have been flying like a jet on automatic pilot, going in the wrong direction. Nor do I want to say, at some stage in my life, the words of Peggy Lee’s old song, "Is that all there is?"

The disciples on the mountaintop had a graced experience and now so do we. As he promised, Jesus has risen from the dead and we are a resurrection people, gifted with his Spirit. It is that Spirit that enables us to listen and act on Jesus’ words as we strive to follow the voice spoken on the mountain top, "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him."

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/080617.cfm

QUOTABLE

Make no mistake. If Jesus did not really come back to life, forget it! We might as well go home, turn on the movie channel, revel in violence or sex or whatever turns us on . But let us not waste our time on a Christ who simple lives in our memories, simply in our hearts, simply in a picture frame or on a cross, that Christ deserves to stay dead.

No, our Christ is alive. Alive now. More alive than you or I have ever been. Alive in the Godhead and in the humanity God’s unique Son borrowed from us forever. Alive for us, for each human image of God, alive for what the first letter of Paul calls a "new birth."

Walter J. Burghardt, S. J.

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

Clouds and darkness surround the Lord

Psalm 97:2

August is Nuclear-Free Future Month and today is the anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. In 1943, two years before, Pope Pius XII urged that such weapons never be developed "because otherwise the consequence could be catastrophic not only in itself but for the whole planet." After the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, Pius called the nuclear bomb "the most terrible weapon that the human mind has ever conceived." Fast forward to Miami, Florida, in the 1950’s, when, as students, we practiced hiding under our desks and memorizing evacuation routes in the event of a nuclear event. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the terror came very close and I remember praying that God would protect me and my family. It is now 2017 and once again the threat of nuclear disaster rears its ugly head. What kind of world do we want?

In a letter to Elayne Whyte Gómez (3/27/17), President of the United Nations conference to prohibit nuclear weapons leading toward their elimination, Pope Francis writes that we must consider "the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences" that would follow from any use of nuclear weapons. He also queries that we need "to ask ourselves how sustainable is a stability based on fear, when it actually increases fear and undermines relationships of trust between peoples" and that "international peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power." Pope Francis then goes on to envision a different kind of world, "built on justice, on integral human development, on respect for fundamental human rights, on the protection of creation, on the participation of all in public life, on trust between peoples, on the support of peaceful institutions, on access to education and health, on dialogue and solidarity." Everything he proposes is within parameters that require our participation. This is the kind of world that I would be happy to help build for future generations.

Want to help build this better world? Join Campaign Nonviolence NC. Learn more at the national website: www.paceebene.org, follow our local group on Facebook by "liking" us at Campaign Nonviolence NC, and join us by leaving me a message at (919) 865-8966. If not now, when?

To read the entire letter, go to: https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/pont-messages/2017/documents/papa-francesco_20170323_messaggio-onu.html

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:

...from the cloud came a voice that said,

"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;

Listen to him.’

Reflection:

We must do our best to listen to Jesus, not only to his words, but his actions as well, for both reveal Jesus’ heart. They tell us about God’s forgiveness, compassion and unfaltering love for us. As we listen closely we also hear Jesus tell us that what has been done for us, we must do for others.

So we ask ourselves:

  • What efforts do I make to listen to Jesus?
  • What am I hearing these days and how do I plan to respond?

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"The use of the death penalty cannot really be mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick

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:

  • Tilmon Golphin #0590940 (On death row since 5/13/98)
  • Johnny Hyde #0542024 (7/23/98)
  • Patrick Steen #0388640 (8/28/98)

----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: http://www.PreacherExchanhe.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.

(These CDs have been updated twice in the last five years.)

2. "Homilias 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 "Homilias 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


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