AN END OF THE YEAR
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.
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PRE-NOTE: Welcome to the
latest email recipients of "First Impressions," the people of
St. Joseph of the Holy Family Parish in Harlem, New York City.
We turn to God with anxious eyes
this Advent. It is not that we want to opt out from the struggle to
make our world a better place; we want to "keep on keepin’ on"
against darkness. But sometimes we feel so inconsequential. After
all is said and done, what difference do we make in the world? It
all seems so "David and Goliath" and it looks like the big guy is
winning. Advent asks some very basic questions: do we still trust
that God is in charge, is faithful to us and will finally draw us
into a loving and lasting embrace? Our Advent liturgies and
scriptural texts encourage our trust in God. They keep our hope
alive, despite national headlines and closer-to- home reports of
family ruptures. Advent isn’t mired in the past, doesn’t
nostalgically relish a former time when things seemed better. Advent
looks forward. What do we have to look forward to anyway? God –
How does Advent begin for us today?
It starts with one of the key voices of the season, Isaiah. Isaiah
and Advent fit together, hand in glove. He opens the door to the
season and sets the tone for us. He is also interlocked with the
people whose lament he voices to God in today’s first reading. He
names their and our human inability to get it right with God on our
own. We fumble and stumble in the dark. He speaks our needs and
voices our dissatisfaction with ourselves. And he does it in a
typical prophet’s extreme way – he blames God for letting us wander
on our own. "Why do you let us wander, O Lord from your ways and
harden our hearts so that we fear you not?" Isaiah’s contemporaries
believed that God was the cause of everything that happens to
people, good or bad. So in this way of reasoning, if God withdraws a
protective hand, they fall into the grip of sin. Isaiah, speaking
for his people, is trying to stir God into returning to them, "Rend
the heavens and come down." Isaiah ends on a note of confidence: God
will return to the people. For God is our, "Father, we are the clay
and you the potter; we are all the work of your hands."
The times and cultures have changed
since Isaiah wrote. He was a prophet to a devastated people just
back from exile. He voices the lament of a people who have returned
to the ruins of their former greatness. He acknowledges that God has
a right to be angry, "we are sinful." But there is great confidence
implied in his forthright prayers, for behind his words is the trust
that God will do just what Isaiah is pleading for, "rend the heavens
and come down." We are a long way removed from the historical
situation Isaiah addressed, nevertheless, we too need God to "rend
the heavens and come down," to pierce the defensive armor that holds
God off from our deeper selves. We need God to rend, rip away the
indifference and egoism that separates country from country, race
from race, male from female, rich from poor, young from old,
religion from religion, healthy from sick, etc. We pray that God
will rend our hearts and get through to us this Advent, so that the
crustiness that has atrophied them will be removed and they will
become hearts capable of great compassion and love.
What shall we do this Advent?
Despite the gaps we in the church and world have created between us
and God, we express our faith this Advent that God has not given up
on us. We reach out for God and discover God has been embracing us
with love all along. There is a three letter word in today’s reading
that is a very big word. Isaiah makes abundantly clear that God has
ample evidence to give up on us. Then he speaks the word—YET. ("Yet
O lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we
are all the work of your hands.")
"Yet" is the word we carry with us
this Advent. When our own limitations, narrowness and sin convince
us that God has more than enough evidence against us – individuals,
churches and nations – we will say the one-word-prayer that
expresses hope, "Yet." It is a reminder to God and us that we are
the people God has invested much in. For God has taken flesh among
us; Jesus is our sign that God will not give up on us. He is "God’s
Yet" – the restoring pause in the cycle of our downward spiral that
allows God’s mercy to step in.
Why begin Advent with endings? Isn’t
it also a "downer" to have ominous tones just a couple days after
Thanksgiving? We just celebrated family and friends and now a pall
seems to drop over our good cheer, warm memories and left over
turkey sandwiches. Here in church today it’s not just these sounds
of caution and circumspection, even the sights around us have
shifted dramatically from the Thanksgiving table we left. The
pumpkins, gourds and brilliant autumn leaves that decorated our
sanctuary and church entrances these past couple of weeks have
yielded to violet, or shades of deep blue.
Since Christmas decorations in the
stores and malls began in earnest right after Halloween, all who
come to church today will have already heard carols and Santa Claus
jingles. Yet, our church music is stark, almost monastic. "Prepare
ye the way of the Lord." One way for the preacher to begin today’s
preaching is to name the stark contrast between worshipers’ outside
life and what is happening today as they enter church, look around,
sing and listen to the liturgical readings and prayers.
Our first impression on hearing
today’s gospel is accurate. Advent doesn’t begin with cheery
anticipation of the birth of Christ. Nor does the beginning for the
new church year start with typical new year’s celebrations. Instead,
we are called to sobriety and discernment, rare commodities in the
mall scenes, as Jesus’ warning sounds in our ears, "Be constantly on
the watch! Stay awake!" (Note the appropriate and urgent exclamation
marks in the text.) No, this gospel isn’t from the beginning of
Mark’s gospel, instead chapter 13 is near the conclusion; it’s the
farewell discourse and a chapter away from Jesus’ arrest.
In this section of Mark Jesus
describes the destruction of the temple and his return in glory. In
the light of these predictions today’s passage sums up for the
disciples the attitude we should always have – watchfulness and
anticipation of Jesus’ return. And, we are reminded, we may have to
wait a very long time since the "master" of the house may not come
until very late into the night hours, perhaps not till dawn.
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
against Racism by the Archdiocese of New York
We are... resolved that there can be
no acceptance of the moral positions regarding race, faith and
culture espoused by White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan
and similar groups which advocate for the superiority of white
persons and the inferiority of persons of color or for the
superiority of Christians and the inferiority of non-Christians. We
declare that these groups, by virtue of their moral positions, are
anti-Catholic, anti-Christian and that they act against the ideals
articulated in the foundational and governing documents of the
United States. There can be no acceptance of these racist,
xenophobic positions within the Catholic community in America.
Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways,
and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?
(Isaiah 63: 17)
And so it begins. . .Advent. This
season celebrates homecoming, but not just a typical homecoming. No,
Advent is a time when we are in anticipation of the arrival of a
very special family member. It is the time when we prepare our souls
for the coming of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, into our hearts. We
think we have many things to do. However, in the spiritual life,
like a woman in the last month of her pregnancy, our be-ing is more
important than our do-ing. All the past year, we may have wandered
far from God and let the world dictate our desires. In a homily
during a visit to Aparecida (7/24/13), Pope Francis states, "It is
true that nowadays, to some extent, everyone, including our young
people, feels attracted by the many idols which take the place of
God and appear to offer hope: money, success, power, pleasure. Often
a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many
people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols."
Now we are called home to await a new arrival with a new or renewed
emphasis on the importance of our spiritual journey.
How do we do this?
First, we must make a decision. We
must decide that this Advent our focus will be on our life in
Christ. In anticipation of a new arrival, we must take stock of
everything that distracts us from our path. This leads us to our
We must take time from our worldly
lives. For some, this time may be expressed by setting up the crèche
scene without the infant, Emmanuel, "God is with Us," or lighting
the first Advent candle and saying prayer. If this has become a
perfunctory part of your Advent journey, it may well be a good time,
to just sit and contemplate the new spiritual life that wants to be
born within you.
Third, Advent should be a time of
active listening. Listening for the cries of the world, listening
for your own cries and listening for laughter too. A pregnant woman
feels the weight of the child she is bearing. She also feels the new
life yearning to come forward. Listen to what possibility sounds
Happy wandering in the direction of
the Lord this first week.
---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh,
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 Isaiah reading:
"No ear has ever heard, no eye ever
any God but you doing such deeds
for those who wait...."
Despite the gaps we in the church
and world have created between us and God, we express our faith this
Advent that God has not given up on us. We reach out for God and in
our waiting discover God has been embracing us with love all along.
So we ask ourselves:
- In what place in my life am I
waiting for God to act?
- How do I feel during this time
- What enables me to wait in
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."
Advent speaks to those in impossible
situations; those waiting for relief they cannot provide for
themselves. It is an appropriate time to consider the very least in
our society. Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in
the prison system. Their rejection and loneliness is intensified by
the "joy of the season." 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.
- Paul Dewayne Cummings #0523493
(On death row since 9/8/04)
- Alkexander C. Polke #0801680
- Christopher Goss #0150949
--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:
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1. We have compiled Four CDS for
- Individual CDs for each
Liturgical Year, A, B or C
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"Liturgical Years A, B and C."
If you are a preacher, lead a
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Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they
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Where you will
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and "Homilías Dominicales," as
well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material
pertinent to preaching.
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.
you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the
Great Priory of Texas
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