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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "

1st SUNDAY OF ADVENT (B) December 3, 2017

Isaiah 63: 16b-17, 19b; 4: 2b-7; Psalm 80; 1Corinthians 1: 3-9; Mark 13: 33-37

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

AN END OF THE YEAR APPEAL

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.

Send tax deductible checks to:

"First Impressions"

Dominican Friars

3150 Vince Hagan Dr.

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Or: For a secure online donation (Via Credit Card, eCheck, or PayPal): Go to: www.preacherexchange.com/donations.htm and click on the appropriate link.

Thank you.


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.


 

First

Sunday

ADVENT

2017

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 – that’s who.

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.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120317.cfm

QUOTABLE

A Declaration 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.

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

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 second action.

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 like interiorly.

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, 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 Isaiah reading:

"No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen,

any God but you doing such deeds

for those who wait...."

Reflection:

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 of waiting?
  • What enables me to wait in patience?

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

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.

Please write to:

  • Paul Dewayne Cummings #0523493 (On death row since 9/8/04)
  • Alkexander C. Polke #0801680 (2/7/05)
  • Christopher Goss #0150949 (2/8/05)

--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. "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 Jboll@opsouth.org

3. Our webpage: http://www.PreacherExchange.com - Where 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 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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