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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

2nd SUNDAY OF ADVENT (C) December 9, 2018

Baruch 5: 1-9; Psalm 126; Philippians 1: 4-6, 8-11; Luke 3: 1-6

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

AN END OF THE YEAR APPEAL

It is that time of the year again when we reach out to you for help. Our weekly emailings now go to almost 9,000 recipients. Our webpage, "Preacher Exchange" has had 390,000 "hits" since last Advent. We have kept these Spanish and English 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. We can’t continue this service without your help – so will you?

Every day our community prays for our benefactors. And so you and your loved ones will be remembered at our daily Eucharist and prayer during these special days of Advent and Christmas.

Send tax deductible checks to:

"First Impressions"

(Make payable to:  Dominican Friars)

3150 Vince Hagan Dr.

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

 

Or: For an online donation go to: www.preacherexchange.com/donations.htm

 

Thank you.


 

The 2nd

Sunday of

ADVENT

-2018-

Click Here for a link to our reflection for "The Immaculate Conception", December 8, 2018.  A Holy Day of Obligation.

What an unusual beginning today's gospel passage has! Usually such passages open with expressions like: "At that time. . .," " In those days. . .," " Early in the morning. . . .," "On the Sabbath. . .," etc. Or, some narratives begin with no allusion to time or place at all: "Jesus said to the crowds. . .," "Jesus addressed this parable to the crowds. . . ," etc. How different today's gospel is: half of it is dedicated to dates, places and specific people of authority. " In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. . . . etc. " Luke is too careful a writer not to have something in mind. His specificity suggests a message– the actions of God on our behalf have taken place in very concrete ways---on certain days and in particular places. In other words, God acts in our human history in specific and discernible ways. This unique Gospel opening invites us to look over the realities of our own lives and to notice God's gracious acts on our behalf in the daily routines---- through the almost casual events and repetitious happenings at home, work, leisure and worship.

But God also enters our lives in entirely new and unpredictable ways. The gospel suggests that at a particular moment in the world's history, while civil and religious powers ruled in their own worlds of influence, God stepped in to change the course of events, to introduce to the world a whole new way of living. God spoke a word to John in the desert, and from that barren and still place the word was heard and passed on to others.

It may seem idealistic to encourage peopled to take time out for quiet and reflection at a time of the year that drives most of us to distraction and frantic activity. But some kind of desert moment does seem to be the necessary atmosphere for hearing God. It needn't take much time. I know a letter carrier who, on his way in from his delivery route, stops off at a church for five minutes each day. He says, "I like the quiet, it soothes me. My life is so busy and crazy these days." He is doing an Advent practice. "The word of God came to "N"....in the desert." Fill in your own name here; God doesn't restrict the word to just a select few. In fact, the gospel shows us today that, though people like Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias, Annas and Caiaphus may have been prominent and well known by the populace of their day, God chose to speak to an obscure itinerant preacher in the hill country of Judea.

The desert is such a rich biblical symbol. Devout people in John's time were attuned to their religious history. The desert played an important role for the Jews; it through the desert that they escaped from Egyptian slavery. It was also where God spoke to them, revealed God's name and led them day by arduous day to the land of promise. From their desert experience the people learned that God's advent – God's coming to fulfill the long awaited promise – happens after a period of preparation and high expectation. Our Advent waiting and yearning also have the same potential for fulfillment.

John the Baptist plays a prominent role in all the gospels, but particularly in Luke. (For example, the evangelist presents us with the accounts of both John and Jesus' annunciations and births.) John hears the word in the desert and preaches "throughout the whole region of the Jordan." The Jordan was another important place in the faith life of the Jewish believers. After their desert wanderings the people crossed over the Jordan river into the promise land. They left behind slavery, came to know God in the desert and were finally prepared by God to cross into new life. Today this reference to the Jordan's water reminds us Christians of our baptism.

Those baptismal waters were not just part of some past ritual; they initiated us into a new way of life. These waters have accompanied us throughout our lives; they led us out of slavery, traveled with us across our own desert terrain and bubbled up at important moments when we would have given up, or when we lost our way. Advent is a time to call on our baptismal identity to ask for help: to straighten out our life's path if it has developed twists and turns; to lower the mountains and hills we have built to separate us from family members and the world around us; to fill in the valleys of our emptiness and longing for God.

There are lots of instances of change in today's readings. The Baruch reading starts with a change of clothing, "Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory." There is also a change of name; the people in exile are told that the devastated Jerusalem will be given a new name, "the peace of justice, the glory of God's worship." John the Baptist calls people to change and show the results of change – that our valleys are filled, our paths are made straight and mountains and hills lowered. Advent is a time of change as we struggle to hear God's Word and do our best to respond to it. This Word opens our hearts, and fills us with the hope that we can more fully turn back to our God. Like the Jews journeying across the desert to their promised place, our hope is stirred for what lies ahead. Our God accompanies us on our journey, as Baruch promised, "...God will bring them back to you...God is leading Israel in joy...by the light of God's glory...."

We remember hearing in other gospel passages that John made people uncomfortable. No one, then or now, wants to hear that they must change. Maybe John had to preach out in the desert because neither Roman rulers nor high religious authorities wanted him in court or temple precincts. He would have upset the status quo and challenged the compromises religious leadership had worked out with the secular government. This "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins," sounds like sacrifice is going to be asked of us, as well as an admission of wrong doing. Our society doesn't like that kind of talk. Neither do religious institutions. In the recent church scandals, some of those sinned against said they just wanted church leaders to admit they were wrong and give them a sincere apology.

John says that God is about to break into our lives. Advent does not carry the same tone of penitence that Lent does. Nevertheless, openness to the next thing God wants to do in our lives may first require from us what John was asking at the Jordan's waters – "repentance for the forgiveness of sin." Our baptismal waters assure us that forgiveness is readily available. In addition, this season reminds us that God is also ever ready to speak again at this present stage of our journey. We noted that Luke is very specific about the time and place God spoke the Word to John. The evangelist is also telling us that at THIS time and in THIS place God has a Word for us. Not only for us as individuals, but for this worshiping community. When such a Word is received with a ready heart, we are gently carried further along our way to God. Our church, recently tripped up, needs to hear that Word anew this day, in this place of worship, for we must be a sign to the world, that a new and healed life is possible.

The setting has changed since the prophet John was called by God's Word in the desert – but not as much as it first seems. We too are in the wilderness, though we live in great cities and brush shoulders with many people constantly. We live in the wilderness of isolation that, as Karl Rahner reminds us, has no center and is not a home for us. We too must also confront the beasts in our wilderness: beasts of aggression, war, competition, greed, and the lust for still more property and power. We in the church must be a sign that another way of living is possible where there are no hills, mountains, valleys or crooked roads to separate us from each other.

John the Baptist was expecting some thing wonderful and new to happen, "in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caeasar...." We pray that this Advent will open our eyes to see the wonderful and new things God is promising for us, in this present moment and in this place.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120918.cfm

 

NEW ON PREACHER EXCHANGE WEBPAGE

 

Just posted:  PREACHING IN THE BLACK CHURCH

 

"African American Literature and Preaching in the Black Church," by Bruce Barnabas Schultz, O.P., Associate Pastor, Our Lady of Lourdes, Atlanta, GA (Click on "Preaching Essay") John J. Markey (O.P.), MAKING SENSE OF MYSTERY - A PRIMER ON THEOLOGICAL THINKING, A review by R. B. Williams, O.P. (Click on "Book Review")

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value. . .

--Philippians 1:9

As we enter the second week of Advent, we focus on preparing for love entering our lives in the form of an infant born in poverty. Reading II today has Paul praying that our love will increase through knowledge and perception. Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, which is acquired through education or experience by learning, perceiving, or discovering. Catholicism, in its love of learning, has given a great gift by the creation of what is known as the university, a formal institution that has its origin in the Medieval Catholic tradition. But we are missing something if all we rely on is book learning when it comes to God’s love.

Consider this bit of wisdom from Anthony de Mello, S.J., in his book, The Song of the Bird, (Loyola, 1983):

"A lover presses his suit unsuccessfully for many months, suffering the atrocious pains of rejection. Finally his sweetheart yielded. ‘Come to such and such a place, at such and such an hour,’ she said to him. At that time and place the lover finally found himself seated beside his beloved. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a sheaf of love letters that he had written to her over the past months. They were passionate letters, expressing the pain he felt and his burning desire to experience the delights of love and union. He began to read them to his beloved. The hours passed by but still he read on and on. Finally, the woman said, ‘What kind of a fool are you? These letters are all about me and your longing for me. Well, here I am sitting next to you. And you keep reading your stupid letters.’

‘Here I am sitting next to you,’ said God to his devotee, ‘and you keep reflecting about me in your head, talking about me with your tongue and reading about me in your books. When will you become silent and taste Me?’" (128).

How can we be silent and taste God in this week of preparation? We can do so by loving others, especially the poor and disadvantaged. To accompany God in the guise of the poor is not an idle exercise of learning how to love.

To join parish efforts: http://raleighcathedral.org/social-justice-programs and scroll to bottom of page

--Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

2nd SUNDAY OF ADVENT (C) December 9, 2018

Baruch 5: 1-9; Psalm 126; Philippians 1: 4-6, 8-11; Luke 3: 1-6

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 the prophet Baruch:

Jerusalem take off your robe of mourning and misery;

put on the splendor of glory from God forever:

wrapped in the cloak of justice from God.

Reflection:

The prophet Baruch promises a time when we will be "wrapped in the cloak of justice." Justice is not merely one virtue among many. For God’s community, it is the key virtue. It reflects the very way God treats us. In a community guided by justice, all are treated equally; all share in the community’s resources; no one goes hungry or is treated unfairly.

So we ask ourselves:

  • How did I feel when an injustice was done against me?
  • What can I do to help another person not be treated in the same manner I was?

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:

  • Jeremy D. Murrell #0940436 (On death row since 2/17/2006)
  • Darrell W. Maness #0831753 (4/4/2006)
  • Ryan G. Garcell #0775602 (4/4/2006)

----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/

Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:  http://www.pfadp.org/

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: 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: 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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