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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "

12th SUNDAY (A) June 25, 2017

Jeremiah 20: 10-13; Psalm 69; Romans 5: 12-15; Matthew 10: 26-33

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

 

  The 12th

Sunday in

Ordinary

Time

Welcome to the latest email recipients of "First Impressions," the parishioners of Our Lady of Peace Parish, New Providence, New Jersey.



Prophets just don’t know when to keep quiet! If they did they would wouldn’t have such a hard time in life. Jeremiah is a good example of a prophet with an unrestrained tongue. He was called by God to be a prophet in unsettled times in Israel’s history. The nation’s leaders had made political alliances as a way to secure security. Jeremiah accused them of turning from trusting God to the reliance on worldly powers. He prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and exile for the people. This put him at odds with his contemporaries and especially the religious leaders. The priest Pashur had him arrested and scourged for his seeming betrayal.

After his release Jeremiah continued his prophecy of doom, destruction and exile. Things looked so bad for him that even his friends were waiting for his fall. Just prior to today’s passage Jeremiah voices his frustration, hurt and anger with God. "You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me and you triumphed" (20:7). Jeremiah accused God of tricking him into his ministry. He didn’t know what he was taking on when he said "yes" to his mission. That’s a common experience, not only for those called to be prophets, but for all who have said "yes" to God’s call. It seems that in every parish where I preach there are people doing ministry who say, "I never knew what I was getting into." While that’s not always a complaint, it does express an involvement in service they didn’t anticipate at the beginning.

But it certainly was a complaint for Jeremiah. The demands put on him because of his prophetic ministry were severe. Who could blame him for his complaint to God? (So numerous were these complaints that his name is used to describe any complaint or lament – "jeremiads"). Today’s passage doesn’t end with "jeremiads" though. Did you notice the "but" Jeremiah speaks? That is where the passage turns. After he voices the seeming hopelessness of his situation, from somewhere down deep his faith interrupts. "But," the Lord is with me…."

We can pray for that faith today especially, if like Jeremiah, we are at the end of our rope and our human resources are not enough, or just worn out. The afflictions might come, as Jeremiah’s did, as a consequence of doing or saying what is right and just. Or, we might be suffering physical ailments, family breakdown, prejudice, unemployment, addiction, etc. Like Jeremiah we know that, on our own, we don’t have the strength or resources we need. Remember his "But." With him we trust "the Lord is with me."

For Jeremiah, God is real and present, not detached from what he is experiencing. God is also very personal, a friend to whom he can even voice anger and disappointment; but also a trusted friend, upon whom he can rely – and so can we.

In a few verses Jeremiah makes quite a spiritual journey! He begins by voicing the opposition he is facing in his mission, even the abandonment and whisperings of his friends. Then, he makes an act of faith in a mighty God who will be his champion. This leads to a hymn of praise for the God to whom he has entrusted his cause and who, "has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked."

Jeremiah’s reassurance, that God would stand with him and strengthen him in his trials, is echoed in our gospel. Jesus, like a loving parent, reassures his disciples that God will stand with them in, what will be, a difficult discipleship.

I like the explanation Patricia Datchuck Sanchez gives to the familiar quote: not one sparrow "falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge" ("Celebration: Preaching Resources, June 19, 2005). I always thought that meant God notices the deaths of even the least of Jesus’ followers. Actually, a clearer translation would be, "Not one sparrow lights upon the ground…." God doesn’t just know when a sparrow dies, but each time it lights upon the ground. How many times does a sparrow land and take off from the ground? Each time God takes notice. Jesus isn’t just talking about sparrows, is he? – but about each and every activity of his disciples. Especially when we are acting as his emissaries in the world.

Today’s text is part of the Missionary Discourse in Matthew. Jesus is sending his disciples out to preach to the world and he is assuring them of God’s care for them in everything they do in his name. God also knows how many hairs we have on our head. Again, we’re not talking about the hairs on our head are we? It is another assurance of God’s attentiveness to all of our lives. Jesus is encouraging us to keep strong in faith through hard times caused by the opposition our Christian values face in the world. Jeremiah and Jesus assure us that God’s loving care will always be with us.

Fear in the face of suffering, especially from persecution, is natural. Still, three times Jesus issues instructions about not being afraid. "Do not be afraid." Matthew was addressing his community’s present situation: there was reason to be afraid, they were being persecuted for their faith. Ultimately, in the final judgment, Jesus assures his followers, the truth will come out. Meanwhile, they will endure suffering because they are his followers and must still proclaim the truth openly – "proclaim on the housetops."

Disciples will not have it easy. Like Jeremiah we will have crises of faith as we face the evils of our world. We live both by faith because we do not see evil yielding to goodness and the hope that, as Jesus says, "I will acknowledge you before my Father." He assures us that, until the final reckoning, God is with us, knows us more intimately than any human. What human, no matter how close, knows the number of hairs on our head? God knows us, God is with us and so we have hope as we stand up for Jesus and face the difficulties life throws at us for being his disciples.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062517.cfm

A POEM RESPONSE TO OUR JEREMIAH READING

VOICE FOR THE PEOPLE

I didn’t choose this role–

No kudos there!

Rather I was chosen–

Not allowed to escape

It needed oceans of grace—

Certainly, I’ve used up more

Than you can comprehend

To bring me here!

Agonizing, always wanting to be

Of the people–

Finally, recognizing I am

A voice for the people.

For, who will speak for the lambs?

Will cast away karma and timidity

As unworthy refuges

For the power within.

As long as I stay there,

I’ll be all right–

Not trying to become

A voice over the people.

The lesson is—

Never give up hope!

As a voice for the people

I’ve become of the people!

-----Garth M. Stanton, from "On The Road To Jerusalem: A Spiritual Journey in Poetry," 2008.

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"Answer me, O Lord, for bounteous is your kindness; in your great mercy turn toward me."
Psalm 69: 17

It is summertime; time to play at the beach. However, for farmworkers, the work goes on. Among farmworkers, heatstroke is the leading cause of death, representing a rate nearly 20 times greater than for U.S. civilian workers (Oxfam and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) citing CDC 2011). Peter Millsaps from the Episcopal Farm Workers Ministry has contacted us for a fundraising effort they are having to give individual water carriers to farmworkers in three eastern North Carolina counties.

Millsaps writes, "You may not know these compelling facts: farmworkers often go without water for two hours at a time. Additionally, there is no shade or place to rest for the workers as they are constantly exposed to the warm temperatures of North Carolina. These hard workers deserve some relief. The Episcopal Farmworker Ministry wants to help these farmers with a simple tool. A water carrier that contains insulation and can conveniently be held with a belt loop. This simple solution can reduce the number of workers who suffer from heat exhaustion. Our goal is to make this "invisible" population visible and support their critical needs. As a result we have started a crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo. We are asking the community to join in supporting their simple request for water while they work. Every $7.50 that we raise will allow us to help one more farmworker. A small price for such a large impact. Thank you."

Please go to: https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/water-in-the-fields--2 100% of your donation will go for purchase of the water carriers. Episcopal Farm Workers Ministry will take care of distribution.

PRAYER FOR FARMWORKERS:

Thank you to the millions of farmworkers for sustaining us through your hard work in the fields and the factories. Thank you to those who sacrifice time with family, physical and mental health to pick fresh produce for all to eat. We honor your work and also your culture, the richness that you bring to our communities, and the motivation that you inspire to continue seeking a good life. Thank you to the farmworkers who organize and take risks in demanding just pay and fair treatment from growers and food corporations. We pray that one day all farmworkers will have dignity in their work and livelihood, and we will continue to work towards farmworker justice until that day comes.

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Sacred Heart 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:

Jesus said to the Twelve:

"Even all the hairs of your head are counted.

So do not be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows."

Reflection:

Jesus assures us that God is with us, knows us more intimately than any human. What human, no matter how close to us, knows the number of hairs on our head? God knows us, God is with us and so we can have hope as we face the difficulties life throws at us for being his disciples

So we ask ourselves:

  • What does it cost us to be a disciple of Jesus?
  • How do we sense the closeness and support of God in those difficulties?

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"The use of the death penalty cannot really be mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick

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:

  • Johnny S. Parker #0311936 (On death row since 3/24/97)
  • Rowland Hedgepath #0176701 (7/3/97)
  • Leroy Mann #0255136 (7/15/97)

----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.

(These CDs have been updated twice in the last five years.)

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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