"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST (B) June 3. 2018

Exodus 24:3-8; Psalm 116; Hebrews 9: 11-15; Mark 14: 12-16, 22-26

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

 

 The

Body

& Blood

of Christ

Today’s first reading describes in some detail the ritual that Moses ordered to ratify the covenant God was making with the people. This covenant ritual would be renewed often, especially whenever Israel wandered from God. Eventually they would build a temple where the altar sacrifices would become a regular part of their religious and community lives. The sacrifices would be a continual sign of the covenant and remind the people that the bond between them and God had been "sealed in blood" and so they could trust in the fidelity of the One who had entered into contract with them.

Like all rituals we celebrate over years and years, this ritual had the possibility of becoming staid, merely something religious law or custom required. Rituals get passed on to the next generations and these new recipients of their parents’ religious observances can grow bored with what looks like mere formality. How many teenagers have told us that about going to church on Sunday? "It’s so boring!" It may not always be their fault, we who carry on the tradition can make our rituals look empty and meaningless – perhaps the traditional practices have become merely ritual for us, devoid of what they express about our relationship with God. We can forget what we are ritualizing; we can forget we are not doing it because we are "supposed to," or "we have always done it". Rather, with this Exodus reading in mind, we perform our rituals to celebrate what God has done for us and the new life we have been given.

Like us, the Israelites, on their own, were no prizes. They were picked, not because they were irresistible to God, but because God is a big hearted gift-giver. The ritual of word and blood the people are celebrating acknowledges their awareness of how gracious God had been to them. The ritual would be a reminder of their God and their desire to serve this most appealing God. It’s as if they are saying, "What a wonderful God we have! What can we do to serve this God? Let’s stay as close to this God as we can; it will be to our benefit." The repeating of the ritual would help them to stay close – but God would stay even closer.

The people are committing themselves to God and God is making covenant with them. There is no hint of boredom here, no hint of having to follow meaningless rules and regulations. They say with enthusiasm, "We will do everything that the Lord has told us." Scan the previous chapters in Exodus. The Israelites have just been delivered from slavery, taken through the desert, nourished with manna and quail, and given water from the rock. Despite their grumblings and stumblings on their God-directed journey, God still wants to make covenant with them. Why wouldn’t they accept the terms of this covenant? They have everything to gain by staying close to God. But they, like us, will pull away from what they are celebrating in today’s event.

Our own short comings and sin on the journey of our lives give us reason to pause: why would God want to get involved with me with all my blemishes? We can say the same thing about ourselves as a church. The pope and our bishops have asked forgiveness for the sins of our church. There is much for which to ask forgiveness. But this is true not just for our Roman church, other religious groups are doing the same. A while back the Methodists made an apology to Catholics for their sins against us. Why would God continue to have anything to do with the Israelite people after their desert journey? Why would God continue to want anything to do with us as well? Who knows why? It has something to do with the foolish lover we have for our God!

Blood was sprinkled on the altar; peace was made between God and the people. For us too, at this eucharistic celebration, we are reminded of the blood of Christ offered for us; not a sacrifice of appeasement to an angry God, but a reminder of how far God was and is willing to go to show that, even if we were to give up on ourselves, God will never give up on us. Thus, this eucharistic celebration is not rote or formal liturgy for us. At least it shouldn’t be. Not if we have heard the Word speaking to us assembled today at this altar.

Every time we gather at Eucharist we bring much to the altar. And we are reminded that since the last time we were here, we have much for which to ask forgiveness. But the eucharistic ritual is a visible reminder and assurance to us: God has not given up on us. God, through Jesus, draws close to us to confirm a fact: God and we are in covenant to one another. And God is always ready to renew that covenant after our wanderings and goings astray in the desert.

The holocaust ordered by Moses was the people’s prayer of praise and thanksgiving to their wonderful God. So too for us, our offering today at Eucharist expresses our praise of God as we realize and celebrate what God has done for us. The ties renewed at this altar are so powerful that, through this sacrifice, we are enabled to offer a similar sacrifice in our personal and communal lives. We sacrifice our body and blood when we:

-give our energies and time to our children. (A father told me recently that he and his wife were sleep-deprived during the first two years of their new born’s life. And someone chimed in, "Just wait till he’s a teenager!")

-dedicate ourselves and give up free time to minister to others in our church communities

-sacrifice a job because our principles will not allow us to compromise or take dishonest shortcuts

-tend to an ailing parent by bringing them groceries, renewing prescriptions, taking time to take them to doctors’ appointments, cooking meals and just spending time listening to them

-advocate for the poor, homeless, disabled, mental patients, prisoners, abused women, uninsured children, etc. at community meetings and before governmental bodies.

-work in the community to reduce violence in schools and on our streets

How do ordinary people like us get such dedication to do so much service for others, to pour out our life blood on so many altars of service? Those of us at this Eucharist have no doubt about the source of our commitment and energy. The living reminder is at this altar for us today: God has given everything for us. As we hear the Word and respond by partaking in this meal we do so with eyes open. We see those people with us who are professing what we do – that our God is worth celebrating, not because we are ordered to do so, but because we know better.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060318.cfm

QUOTABLE

This Sunday’s texts remind us that if we do not do "what the Lord has spoken" (Ex 24: 3), we are turning our backs on the Lord’s surrender of his body and blood. If we do not practice his will of life and justice, our participation in Christian worship, in the Sunday Eucharist, is devoid of content. Beyond sincerity and personal itineraries, the situation of injustice and marginalization of the poor appears as a clamorous departure from the demands of the new covenant sealed in Christ’s blood. Every Eucharistic celebration ought to remind us of "the structures of sin" (cited by Medellin and John Paul II) existing in today’s world. Our repenting for having contributed to these structures not only involves saying so in solemn moments, but above all it involves beginning to build this society on the basis of the needs of the oppressed and of those who are excluded from it.

—Gustavo Gutierrez, in SHARING THE WORD THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR, Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1995 (translated in 1997), page 123.

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for me?

Psalm 116: 12

How often do you ask yourself the question posed in this psalm? When I start adding up all God’s blessings in my life and look at this question, I feel like a beloved, if not spoiled, child who takes a whole lot for granted. I ask myself where I can begin to pay it forward and find a myriad of answers.

I can begin by helping others who are disadvantaged. Participating in one of the many social justice ministries here at Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral provides many opportunities. Check out www.raleighcathedral.org > parish > social justice and scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the one of the listed ministries.

I can be kinder, listen more carefully, engage in thoughtful dialogue, and smile more. Our society seems to be moving away from respectful discourse and most everyone knows what Jesus says about what comes out of our mouths. In case you do not know that passage, it comes from Matthew 15:11--"It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one." Check out: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/parishes-and-schools/upload/Civil-Dialogue-bulletin-insert.pdf

I can also be more conscious of taking care of the environment for future generations. Pope Francis believes that Mother Earth is the most neglected of all. This summer is the perfect time to begin to make amends in a deliberate way. The Earth Day Network (www.earthday.org ) is concentrating this year on plastics. Plastics never fully degrade in the environment and every item of plastic pollution you have ever used still exists. Have you seen recent videos in social media that highlight what plastic products are doing to our oceans and ocean life? How many plastic items do you think you use in a single year? The Earth Day Network provides a plastic pollution footprint calculator and a planner on their website to help everyone realize the individual impact and the harm we are contributing when we are not good stewards of plastic items. Get your children involved if you have families.

To learn more about what the Bible and our Church teaches about the environment, attend our seminar "A Journey with Gospel Nonviolence/Care for Creation," Thursday, June 14, 6-8PM. RSVP at socialconcern@hnojnc.org. How will you make a return for all the good God has done for you?

---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:

While they were eating Jesus took bread, said the blessing,

broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take it, this is my body."

Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them

and they all drank from it.

He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant,

which will be shed for many."

Reflection:

Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t just his death on the cross, his whole life was a gift of himself to humanity. By receiving the Body and Blood of Christ today in the Eucharist, we are asking for the nourishment and strength, indeed, the very life of Jesus, to help us do what he did – to offer our lives as a gift to those we are called to serve.

So we ask ourselves:

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:

----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh 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: http://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

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