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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

26th SUNDAY (A) - October 1, 2017

Ezekiel 18: 25-28; Psalm 25; Philippians 2: 1-11; Matthew 21: 28-32

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

 

PRE-NOTE: We have posted a lovely prayer for the world by Rabbi Harold Kushner on our webpage. Take a look and say the prayer. The world needs it! - http://www.preacherexchange.com/quotable.htm


 

The 26th

Sunday of

Ordinary

Time

There is tension in the background of today’s gospel story. Jesus finds himself in an antagonistic setting. After his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem he went directly to the Temple and drove out the merchants (21: 12-14). That action and the acclaim Jesus received from the crowds, stirred the indignation of the chief priests and scribes. Just before today’s passage the religious leaders came to ask him, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" (21:23-7) Beginning with today’s passage a series of confrontations follows.

 

Previously, in Matthew, Jesus taught the importance of doing God’s will in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Just proclaiming, "Lord, Lord" (7:21), he said, is not enough. It’s just words unless accompanied by corresponding actions. If Jesus is our "Lord," then we must show this by living his life of reverence for God and service to neighbor. Our words and actions must agree. To those questioning his authority, the parable stresses the importance of not only talking about, but doing, the will of God. John the Baptist preached belief and action, "the way of righteousness." He announced the coming of the kingdom and called people to act accordingly, by producing "good fruit."

 

He is challenging these Jewish leaders and those who follow them, to commit themselves. They had accepted God’s covenant and said "yes" to God, but they did not follow through. God was faithful to God’s part of the covenant, the people weren’t. Jesus had a reputation for being a friend of "tax collectors and prostitutes." Now, the very people the devout would have called sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes, those who once said "no" to God, have repented. They accepted John’s preaching and changed their lives. Unlike the religious leaders who were like the first child, they professed faith in God, but refused to accept God’s manifestation and will in Jesus.

 

I would be careful not to demonize the Jewish leaders or their followers. In a very hostile and pagan environment they were doing their best to preserve the faith of their ancestors. One manner of doing that was the observance of the laws and customs passed on to them. In their struggle to keep the integrity of their faith and pass it on to the next generation, imagine what they would have thought of Jesus. He was a peasant preacher from a notoriously irreligious part of the country, Galilee. While he was a miracle worker, he also was known for breaking the religious rules, like Sabbath observances. Those who followed him were simple, uniformed peasants and converted notorious sinners, like tax collectors and prostitutes. Jesus hardly seemed like a devout and observant preacher. So, in today’s and subsequent gospels, the devout challenge him. In their eyes he was an irreverent and confrontational preacher from "the hill country up north, pagan Galilee."

 

But Matthew’s community was not let off the hook. Converts to Christianity may have said an initial "yes" to Christ, and were even enthusiastic in their faith, but then they may have dropped away, or watered down Jesus’ teaching to correspond to a comfortable life that did not reflect the demands of the gospel. We just cannot say "yes" once in our faith journey. We have to repeat that commitment many times through our lives as we mature and as life presents new challenges to test our faith. Faith is a day-to-day commitment, a "yes" said over and over again in large and small ways.

 

In our language we have a secular term which goes, "Put your money where your mouth is." It is not a scriptural quote, it comes from every day life. It expresses what we expect from people; that they not only make promises, or say they are going to do something, but that they follow up their words with actions Or, as we also say, we expect people to, "Walk the talk." Don’t just talk about things, do something about them. Applied to our situation we would say that being a Christian involves more than pious feelings and beautiful words. We are to reflect in our daily lives the words we express here at worship each week. We preachers, catechists and teachers might have reason to squirm as we hear today’s reading. We ask ourselves if our listeners and students experience in our lives what we profess in our religious settings?

 

As is our custom, we look to the first reading for reflections of the gospel. Up until Ezekiel’s time sin was something attributed to the whole community, so that not only a parent, but their children and grandchildren would be punished. This belief was echoed in the question the disciples put to Jesus about the blind man, "Rabbi, was it his sin or that of his parents that caused him to be born blind?" (John 9:2)

 

But with Ezekiel the emphasis is on the individual, how he or she responds to God. Each person is responsible for their own life. It is not enough to claim to be a descendent of Abraham and David and an observer of the law. Nor is it enough for us modern believers to feel comfortable in our religious practices. "I go to church every Sunday. I contribute to my parish and I obey the commandments"

 

There is no room for smugness in a follower of Christ. We call ourselves Christians. We say we are a Christian community. Yet, we might see some around us who, though they have no explicit faith profession, nevertheless are doing the works we associate with God’s kingdom: standing with the poor; challenging unjust structures; helping victims of natural disasters; educating and giving sight to the blind. Are these the ones who through their lives have said a "yes" and are entering the kingdom ahead of us?

 

There is another son in today’s story. It is Jesus, whom Paul describes today as the one who "emptied himself… becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." In another place Paul says, "For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us – by me and Silas and Timothy – was not ‘Yes’ and ‘No,’ but in him it has always been ‘Yes.’" He did not back away from doing God’s will, no matter how painful it was. Jesus was always a "Yes" to God. We ask God’s "Yes," Jesus Christ, to grace us for a life of many "yeses" to God.

 

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/100117.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

Humbly regard others as more important than yourselves
Philippians 2:3

October is Respect Life Month. The USCCB "People of Life" campaign spreads the good news about the bishops’ efforts to teach respect for all human life from the moment of conception until natural death. The campaign affirms our responsibility to love God and others and to protect the most vulnerable among us: all whose lives are threatened.

 

The USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities has implemented the "Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities: A Campaign in Support of Life." This pastoral plan calls upon the Church—its people, services, and institutions—to pursue this effort in four major areas: public information and education, prayer and worship, public policy, and pastoral care. The Pastoral Plan calls on all Catholics to embrace and live a consistent ethic of life.

 

The Plan states: "A consistent ethic of life, which explains the Church's teaching at the level of moral principle—far from diminishing concern for abortion and euthanasia or equating all issues touching on the dignity of human life—recognizes instead the distinctive character of each issue while giving each its proper place within a coherent moral vision. [This includes] pastoral letters on war and peace, economic justice, and other social questions affecting the dignity of human life [and] programs for advancing the Church's witness in these areas through parishes, schools, and other Church institutions (e.g., Communities of Salt and Light [1994]; Sharing Catholic Social Teaching [1998]). Taken together, these diverse pastoral statements and practical programs constitute no mere assortment of unrelated initiatives but rather a consistent strategy in support of all human life in its various stages and circumstances. . .Opposing abortion and euthanasia "does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing and health care" (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 23)." Humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.

 

To sign up to receive the People of Life e-newsletter:

http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/people-of-life/index.cfm To read the entire USCCB Pastoral Planhttp://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/pastoral-plan-prolife-activities.cfm

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:

 

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people...

"Which of the two [sons] did the father’s will?"

 

Reflection:

 

We believers must not just feel content in our religious practices. "I go to church every Sunday. I contribute to my parish and I obey the commandments." Being a Christian involves more than pious feelings and beautiful words. We are to reflect in our daily lives the words we express here at worship each week.

 

So we ask ourselves:

  • In what ways do I put my faith into practice in my home?

  • How do I put my faith into practice at work? In recreation?

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:

  • Andre. L. Fletcher #0130628 (On death row since 12/9/99)

  • Terry A. Hyatt #0199877 (2/7/00)

  • Cerron T. Hooks #0561692 (2/9/00)

----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.PreacherExchange.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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