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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "

31st SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A) November 5, 2017

Malachi 1: 14b–2:2b, 8-10; Ps 131; 1 Thess. 2: 7b–9, 13; Matthew 23: 1-12

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

This week on this website, we have also posted reflections for All Saints and All Souls’ Days:

All Saints - www.PreacherExchange.com/fi_11-01-17a.htm   -  

All Souls - www.PreacherExchange.com/fi_11-02-17a.htm


 

31st

Sunday

Year A

2017

What has gotten God so riled up? The first reading, from the prophet Malachi, has an ominous tone. One is tempted to drop or skip over the reading, it sounds so fearsome. It seems to confirm people’s stereotype of an angry God ready to come down hard on people. Did you hear what God said through the prophet? "I will send a curse upon you…." "I, therefore have made you contemptible and base before all the people." However, a closer look at the reading might sway us to think that God is quite justified being so angry.

We are not sure who Malachi was, his name means "my messenger" in Hebrew. The emphasis isn’t on who the prophet was, but what he had to say. And what he says is very condemning, with reason. Malachi addresses the Word of God specifically to the priests, the religious leaders of the people.

Malachi wrote soon after the Israelites returned from exile, around the sixth century BCE. Remember that the Persian king, Cyrus, had not only freed the Israelites, but ordered the rebuilding of their Temple in Jerusalem. It was built, rededicated and made ready for worship. Though the Temple was dedicated to God, people were not. Their worship was perfunctory. Animals for sacrifice, which were supposed to be pure, to match the purity of the Temple and the integrity of the people, were often the least valuable, sick and maimed ones from the flocks and herds. The priests were supposed to lead the people in a pure worship of God, but they did not.

That is why Malachi is so upset in his indictment of Israel’s religious leaders. Because of their disregard the people, whom they were supposed to lead in God’s ways, had gone astray. "You have turned aside from the way and have caused many to falter by your instruction." The priests’ scandalous neglect of their holy mission resulted in a disintegrated community whose bonds with God were seriously weakened.

It’s difficult to read Malachi’s condemnation of the priests and their assistants in the Temple, the Levites. It stirs up a memory of a painful time in Israel’s history. But it also speaks to recent clerical scandals in our own church. Priests, who not only committed sexual sins and abuse of the young, were protected by some of the very bishops under whom they served. What would the mouthpiece of God, Malachi, say about all this?

The prophecy ends with a reminder and a call to acknowledge God as our Creator and loving Parent. Malachi also calls all of us to reform and put aside what separates us from God: halfhearted and perfunctory worship; indifference to the spiritual well-being of others who may be in our charge; any privilege for special treatment ordained, or lay, may feel is our due because of our status in the church community.

What is comforting to hear in this fiery prophet is the obvious passion of our God, who loves us so intensely, that God is moved to speak harshly to get our attention and call us to right ways and pure worship. All of us have some responsibility to lead and instruct others, especially the young, about our faith. In the light of God’s passionate outburst we must wake up and examine how well we are fulfilling our responsibilities and what kind of example we are setting for others.

In today’s gospel Jesus doesn’t confront the religious leaders, he does that elsewhere. Instead, he speaks a warning about them to the crowds and his disciples. Still, we can hear the same passion and intensity of Malachi in Jesus’ words. Like Malachi, he denounces the religious caste of his day, the scribes and Pharisees. They were the privileged ones who sat on the "chair of Moses" – positions of religious instruction and leadership. But their lives did not measure up to their teachings, so Jesus tells his hearers to listen to their teaching, but not to follow their example.

In his criticism Jesus even spells out two of the practices of the scribes and Pharisees. Their elaborate and detailed interpretation of the religious law put burdens on the people, which they did not follow themselves. Nor did they do anything to relieve the burden they put on people’s shoulders. They claimed the authority of their office, implying they spoke on God’s behalf, but the God they said they represented was harsh and demanding – not the God Jesus preached and showed by his acts of compassion and forgiveness.

Jesus also criticized their hypocrisy and love of praise. Just picture these self-satisfied men wearing larger-than-necessary religious ornamentation, which drew attention to their status and so-called devotion. Imagine them entering a festive meal, expecting the first places at table and walking through the market place greeted with deference by the "common folk." In the places of prayer, the synagogues, they also expected seats of honor, as if to say they were holier, intimates of God, because they sat up front close to the sacred scrolls.

Jesus eschews honorific titles among his followers. They were to consider themselves equal to one another, all sisters and brothers. He says similar things throughout the gospel. Remember, "The last shall be first and the first last." What would that mean in our own settings? How would those of us in roles of leadership practice our responsibilities to the community, without falling into a pharisaical mentality while we teach, sit up front and lead worship? "The greatest among you must be the servant."

We are not better than those Jesus condemns, we can’t congratulate ourselves for rising above the flaws of the religious folk who constantly confronted and challenged Jesus for not observing the customs they themselves ignored.

Jesus’ challenge to the leaders in the church is not only addressed to the ordained. More and more, in our parishes and diocesan offices, we see ministerial responsibility being fulfilled by the laity, which is appropriate since, by our baptism, we are identified priest, prophet and royalty. Whatever the form our leadership takes we carry within us the mantra of service Jesus has given us: "Whoever exalts self will be humbled, but whoever humbles self will be exalted."

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110517.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

Has not the one God created us? Why then do we break faith with one another, violating the covenant of our fathers?--Malachi 2:10

We really have to take a moment and let these two questions in today’s readings sink in. . .These questions give us the opportunity to examine the Church’s teaching on solidarity.

Marvin Mich writes in The Challenge and Spirituality of Catholic Social Teaching (Orbis, 2011), that "While the concept of solidarity is as ancient as the Hebrew covenants. . .the actual word ‘solidarity’ appeared in English only in the middle of the nineteenth century when Catholic thinkers lifted the term from the labor movements in France and Germany. They were looking for a word to express the Catholic vision of human beings as essentially social in contrast to the individualistic tendencies of capitalism. . .The word ‘solidarity’ communicated their vison of society as cooperative and harmonious." Several of our recent popes have promoted this concept that conveys "the God-given dignity of the human person that government and economic policy should recognize" (ibid, 200). Solidarity means walking in relationship with those suffering injustices.

Pope Francis states, "Today more than ever, I think it is necessary to educate ourselves in solidarity, to rediscover the value and meaning of this very uncomfortable word, which oftentimes has been left aside, and to make it become a basic attitude in decisions made at the political, economic and financial levels, in relationships between persons, peoples and nations. It is only in standing firmly united, by overcoming selfish ways of thinking and partisan interests, that the objective of eliminating forms of indigence. . .will also be achieved. . .Many steps have been taken in different countries, but we are still far from a world where all can live with dignity" (10/16/13). Solidarity means expanding our small world view to see the world from God’s point of view where we are all beloved children of God.

When we are truly walking in solidarity, we lose our sense of superiority and discover empathy. Want to experience what it means to walk in solidarity? Join a Support Circle and accompany a homeless family for a year. Accompany a pregnant woman through Gabriel Project. Join the efforts of Prison Ministry, Habitat for Humanity, or Door Ministry--these are just some of the ministries in our parish that are accompanying others in solidarity. To get involved, contact socialconcern@hnojnc.org.

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral

Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

31st SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A) November 5, 2017

Malachi 1: 14b–2:2b, 8-10; Ps 131; 1 Thess. 2: 7b–9, 13; Matthew 23: 1-12

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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 spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying...,

"Whoever exalts self will be humbled,

but whoever humbles self will be exalted."

Reflection:

Whatever the form our ministry and leadership in the Christian community takes, we carry within us and repeat frequently, the mantra of service Jesus has given us: "Whoever exalts self will be humbled, but whoever humbles self will be exalted."

So we ask ourselves:

  • How do I serve others as a disciple of Jesus?
  • What teaching of Jesus guides my service?

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:

  • Reche Smith 0379083 (On death row since 3/14/02)
  • Terrance Campbell 0064125 (3/28/02)
  • Weslet T. Smith 0064125 (5/29/02)

----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.

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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