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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "

FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY (B) Dec. 31,2017

Gen. 15: 1-6; 21:1-3; Psalm 105; Hebrews 11: 8, 11-12, 17-19; Luke 2: 22-40

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

A BIG THANK YOU

Thank you for the contributions you made to support this ministry of the Word of God. As I mentioned in our Advent Appeal, this free service is used by many parishioners and preachers. How many, you ask? Each week we average 9,000 hits on our webpage. Our weekly emails go to 8,500 people.

We couldn’t do it without you. Thank you.

If you didn’t get around to it and would still like to make a contribution, send tax deductible checks to:

Attn:  "First Impressions"

Payable to:  Dominican Friars

3150 Vince Hagan Dr.

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

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

Once again----Thank you.



 

Feast of

the

Holy

Family

 

When I read a Scripture story that begins with an expression of human need, I look for the hinge – the turning moment when God enters to say, or do something, that addresses the need.

Today’s Genesis reading is a good example. Early in the passage Abram expresses his and Sarah’s situation – they are childless. That is not what Abram and Sarah were expecting. God had called them out of Mesopotamia and promised to make them a great nation with many descendants. But at this moment, Abram doesn’t see the fulfillment of that promise. He laments to God, "See you have given me no offspring…."

Doubts come to mind when our current moment seems hopeless. Can God be relied on as a promise-keeper who will not abandon us, even though God seems to have withdrawn from the scene? "Where are you now that I need you, O God?"

Abram’s faith in God seems to be faltering. So, God makes a promise: "Then the word of the Lord came to him…." This is the moment when the narrative turns. God has not left him and is about to address the situation. Sometimes when things are at their lowest point a ray of light pierces the darkness. God is going to help Abram, not because he has shown courageous and persevering faith. Or, because he has been a shining star of goodness. No, God does for Abram what God characteristically does – gives free gifts. God will, on God’s own initiative, fulfill a promise to Abraham and Sarah. After God makes the promise, "Abram put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness." God will finish what God has started, because God is faithful to God’s word.

Who among us can make a claim on God based on our own goodness? Most likely we feel we limp along on so-so faith. Then, when a serious need arises we hesitate, or are shy about praying, since we think only the exemplary models of faith – like some of those near us in our pews today – will get a favorable response to their prayers.

Abram and Sarah still have a long journey ahead of them and there will be trials along the way. What will sustain them as they travel and face obstacles ?They will have to trust the promise God made them: "Look up at the sky, and count the stars, if you can. Just so… shall your descendants be." That promise will travel with them as they go and be an oasis for them in very dry moments. So too for us. We trust in God’s saving presence with us as we pass through life’s desert periods. Along the way God, the promise- keeper, provides oases for us.

Jesus and Mary are a another couple who must rely on God’s word. Initially things weren’t very clear for either of them. They are within the first 40 days of Jesus’ life. Imagine the strain and exhaustion they felt, especially Mary. They had gone to Bethlehem in response to the order from Caesar (2:1) to be counted in the census. There the child was born in a poor and needy environment.

At this stage the parents must have wondered about their newborn and the promises they received about him. Now, after another journey, they are in Jerusalem to present their child to God in the Temple. Like Abram and Sarah the couple heard and awe-inspiring promise, but considering the difficulties at this stage of their journey, it must have been hard to see God’s hand in their lives. Yet, like Abram and Sarah, they trusted the promise they heard from God.

Mary and Joseph were too poor to offer a lamb when they presented Jesus in the temple, so they offered two turtledoves. Like many of the poor today, Mary and Joseph did their best to provide for their child and be faithful to their religious observances. If it had not been for the God-inspired elders, they could easily have been missed that day in the Temple. No one else but Simeon and Ana even noticed them. Which makes us wonder today if the poor in our parish are recognized, or appreciated as full- fledged members? They can’t afford the tuition for our parochial schools; don’t have enough spare time to participate in parish activities; many are not native born and so don’t speak our language well enough to attend classes, or parish meetings, so their voices often go under-recognized.

The devout elders Simeon and Anna were guided by the Spirit to recognize God’s gift to the world. They had eyes of faith and saw the blessing God was giving in the poor, young couple and the child they carried. They would recognize in the couple and the child that the Messiah was coming into the world in poverty. And still Simeon and Ana offered a blessing to God. They recognized in this poor family the gift God was giving to the world.

But we need to do more than offer a blessing for poor families. The recent tax plan approved by Congress is not a blessing for the poor. Almost all the economists who have commented on the plan say is favors the wealthy and hurts the poor and middle-class. It diminishes social investments meant to help the neediest; 13 million Americans will be without health insurance. In the future, when the deficit grows, more cuts to programs that support the needy will be caught under the rubric of "welfare reform." Cuts will probably happen to Medicaid, Medicare and other programs that help the poor.

Today we celebrate God’s gift to human kind through a child born to a poor couple. Yet today, our national policies fail to acknowledge and respond to the neediest among us. Simeon and Ana said a blessing over the child born to a poor couple. We need to do more than say blessings.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/123117.cfm

QUOTABLE

A friend sends this prayer for us pilgrims:

God be in my head and in my understanding.

God be in my eyes and in my looking

God be in my mouth and in my speaking

God be in my heart and in my thinking.

God be at my end and at my parting.

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out--

Hebrews 11:8

Anyone familiar with the Bible realizes that there are many stories of people on the move, people from whom will come the chosen one of God. The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are also on the move. First to Bethlehem for the census and then, depending on which Gospel story you read, they flee to Egypt in Matthew, or journey to Jerusalem and then Nazareth in Luke. How should we treat the travelers who come to us? Pope Benedict XVI in 2011 states that all of us "belong to one family, migrants and the local populations that welcome them, and all have the same right to enjoy the goods of the earth, whose destination is universal, as the social doctrine of the Church teaches. It is here that solidarity and sharing are founded." In his message for the 51st World Day of Peace for January 1st, Pope Francis establishes four mileposts for action: welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating.

1."Welcoming" calls for expanding legal pathways for entry and no longer pushing migrants and displaced people towards countries where they face persecution and violence. It also demands balancing our concerns about national security with concern for fundamental human rights. Scripture reminds us: "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it."[Hebrews13:2]

2."Protecting" has to do with our duty to recognize and defend the inviolable dignity of those who flee real dangers in search of asylum and security, and to prevent their being exploited. . . God does not discriminate: "The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the orphan and the widow."[Psalm 146:9]

3."Promoting" entails supporting the integral human development of migrants and refugees. . . The Bible teaches that God "loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt."[Deuteronomy 10:18-19]

4."Integrating", lastly, means allowing refugees and migrants to participate fully in the life of the society that welcomes them, as part of a process of mutual enrichment and fruitful cooperation in service of the integral human development of the local community. Saint Paul expresses it in these words: "You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people."[Ephesians 2:19]

Treat others as you would like to be treated.

---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:

There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.... This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  There was a prophetess, Anna.... She never left the temple but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer

Reflection:

Simeon and Anna were vigilant in prayer and watching – waiting for God to enter their lives. They were wide awake and receptive to something new and unexpected. God is there in surprising ways for those with open minds and hearts. Like Simeon and Anna, those who have put their hope in God will recognize the messiah when at last he does come.

So we ask ourselves:

  • For what revelation from God am I waiting?
  • Where and how am I waiting?
  • What will be the sign that will tell me God has visited me in my waiting?

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:

  • William E. Robinaon #0694689 (On death row since 12/9/11 )
  • Mario Mc Neil #0788387 (5/29/2013)
  • Juan Rodriguez #1412408 (3/21/2014)

----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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