"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

16th SUNDAY (B) JULY 22, 2018

Jeremiah 23: 1-6; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2: 13-18; Mark 6: 30-34

By: Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

PRE-NOTE:

We welcome the latest email recipients of "First Impressions", the Dominican Sisters and Nuns of Springfield, IL.



 

 16th

SUNDAY

Ordinary

Time

When you read, or hear, in Mark’s gospel that Jesus is planning a quiet retreat for himself or his disciples, you can be sure their rest is going to be interrupted by the needs of the people. Mark is a busy gospel and that’s what happens in today’s passage. The apostles return from the preaching and healing ministry Jesus had sent them on – remember last week’s gospel (6: 7-13)? Today we are told that they, "gathered together with Jesus," the way sheep gather with their shepherd, and that they made a report of their preaching mission. Jesus invites them to come apart with him to "a deserted place and rest awhile."

But Mark’s is not a gospel for resting, there is much to do; there are many needy people. It sounds like it was written yesterday, a modern gospel for modern disciples who have too many pressing needs, too limited energies, too many distractions, too much confusion about what’s really important and what’s just busy work that distracts us from our calling. Yes, "calling," whether we are full time paid ministers, church volunteers, or people leading very busy and demanding lives – the kind Jesus and his disciples lead in Mark’s gospel. If any of the above describes your life, then Mark is the gospel for you.

Jesus had sent the apostles out to do the very things he was doing, teaching, healing and driving out demons. In this action-filled gospel one event follows quickly upon another. We can sense the rush of activity and can understand the need Jesus and his apostles have for rest and regrouping. I wonder if Jesus not only wanted to give his disciples a chance to rest, but also to remind them about all that discipleship would entail – not just enthusiastic acceptance by the multitudes, but the cross, pain and sacrifice of true discipleship.

If the disciples don’t include the cross in their understanding of ministry they will fail as Jesus’ followers. At first, that’s what happens, because when Jesus meets his cross, they scatter. Mark was writing for a community that was facing the cross of persecution and his gospel is trying to show that early church and us, not to measure ourselves by worldly standards of success and failure. Maybe that is why Jesus is trying to pull his disciples away from the popularity spotlight – to instruct them more fully on discipleship.

Maybe we too have to go against the tides of rush and busyness to evaluate our call to follow Jesus and the consequences it has on our lives. Even those of us who are already involved in church, or public service, must ask ourselves if there are people we are neglecting and other needs to address. Are there people or services we must attend to that might not be as noticed, or as lauded as what we are now doing – but might be where we are being called to live out our discipleship?

There are those of us who sense we are ministering in the right places and should continue doing so, whether at home, the public market place, or at our church. Nevertheless, Jesus is the shepherd who tends to the needs of disciples and calls us, now and then, to rest. He takes his flock to a "deserted place," where they won’t be distracted and will be able to focus on the food he wants to give them – his presence and his word. As he is doing for us at this Eucharist. He sees that we need to gather around our Shepherd. He wants to give us what we must have to continue as his disciples. For some we may need more time to focus, reflect and be nourished. Surely our parish offers periods of retreat, renewal and input. And for those who can manage to get away, there are retreat houses and spirituality centers. There are various modern "deserted places," where Jesus would be with us to help us gather our scattered spirits.

Jesus sees the needy "vast crowd" and, as their shepherd, he decides to feed them. First, he will teach them, because their spirits need the food he has for them. Then he will give them food for their bodies. He immediately spots their more severe hungers for, "they were like sheep without a shepherd and he began to teach them many things." Mark is showing us that Jesus is more than sufficient for us. You can sense the chaos and "lostness" of the people, they are a crowd – a leaderless and directionless crowd. They need a shepherd who can teach and direct them; bring order and vision to their lives.

Jesus’ compassion is frequently stirred by a person’s physical condition, because they are blind, deaf, crippled, etc. But this crowd needs something even more important than a physical cure; they need to know and be with Jesus. Have you ever been with someone seriously ill and been moved by their calm faith? I wonder how they can seem so trusting in such dire straits? It is obvious their faith has another source, other than themselves. You sense that Jesus has taken notice of them, the way he did the crowd, "his heart was moved with pity for them...." You realize the sick person has been taught by Christ himself, given food in a "deserted place" that no one else could provide under the circumstances.

The promise we heard in Jeremiah is being fulfilled in Jesus. About Israel’s scattered sheep, God has said, "...I myself will gather the remnant of my flock...." That’s what God is doing. God sent a new Shepherd whose heart was moved with compassion for the scattered sheep, just as God’s was. Just prior to today’s passage we learn of John the Baptist’s death at Herod’s command. This threat of death foreshadows today’s gospel passage and suggests that Jesus too will be killed and his disciples will have to be the shepherds to guide the scattered flock. They won’t be able to do this on their own, for at Jesus’ death they too will scatter. But his resurrection will bring them power to follow in the Shepherd’s footprints. Like Jesus, they will give their lives to be true shepherds.

Jesus sees the vast and needy crowd and his first reaction isn’t annoyance at having the quiet break he planned for himself and his disciples interrupted. Instead, Mark tells us, when Jesus sees the crowd, "his heart was moved with pity for them." Usually we don’t like the world "pity." It sounds so condescending. When we really are annoyed with someone, a way of telling them how disgusted and disappointed we are is to say, "I pity you."

But we know, from Jesus’ subsequent care for the people, that his pity isn’t condescending. It is more a deep feeling of concern, like the kind that moves us to act on another’s behalf. We see or hear of another’s pain and we feel pity or compassion and decide to do something for them. This exchange between someone’s need and our response transcends the usual barriers that often separate humans: race, gender, nationality, economics, etc. When we feel pity for another, we are united with God whose compassion goes out to all God has created – humans and the very earth itself.

Throughout Mark’s gospel those following Jesus are usually called "disciples." But in today’s passage they are called "apostles." It is the only time in the gospel that Mark uses this title. It’s a new name for them and suggests a new relationship with Jesus. The Shepherd is preparing "apostles," then and now, those to be sent in his name to teach and act as he did.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072218.cfm

ANNOUNCEMENT

We have posted an article by Lyle C. May, an inmate on Raleigh’s Death Row, entitled, "Race, Innocence and the End of the Death Penalty."

Go to: http://www.preacherexchange.com/ and click on "Justice Preaching."

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.

Psalm 23: 6

I have always loved the passages that speak of God’s house. I think it is because home has always been so important to me from childhood forward--a place of security, love, problems, and freedom. For Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who lost his life opposing the Nazis, home "is a kingdom of its own in the midst of the world, a stronghold amid life’s storms and stresses, a refuge, even a sanctuary." Both St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis have spoken eloquently that a home is much more than a roof over one’s head. So it is with great alarm that after over 30 years of volunteering with Habitat for Humanity of Wake County, I am witnessing a silent crisis of the lack of affordable housing in our county, in our state, and in our nation.

In North Carolina alone, nearly 1.2 million households pay more than 30% of their income on housing, and more than 500,000 pay more than half of their income on housing. Through the Door Ministry here at Cathedral, I have seen a drastic increase in rent that wage increases have not matched. Thriving is difficult when so many struggle just to pay for housing from month to month.

What can you do?

1) In 2007, NC State Government set up the Housing Trust Fund at $20 million. Because of the housing crash, the fund was drastically cut and is now only minimally maintained at $7.66 million. For every dollar invested in the Fund, $4 of housing is leveraged, and a recent policy brief concluded that every $1 spent in the Fund for Urgent Repair yields $19 in Medicaid savings. For every $10 million in the Fund, 700 jobs are supported, 1,300 housing units are built or rehabilitated and $3.6 million in state and local tax revenue is generated. Call your state legislator and ask them to restore the original investment in 2019/2020.

2) Join the Catholic Coalition Habitat for Humanity’s 9th build beginning the end of August. Contact HNOJ coordinator, Walt Milowic, at socialconcern@hnojnc.org

3) Contribute to the Door Fund for the Door Ministry. Envelopes are in the information center in the Cathedral.

Tonight, if you are lucky enough to have a secure home, when you are in bed looking at the ceiling above you, say a prayer for those who are homeless or economically challenged and ask God what else you can do to help.

---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:

"[Jesus] saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them,

For they were like sheep without a shepherd."

Reflection:

When Jesus sees the needy "vast crowd," he immediately spots their severe hungers. They are without a leader. So, first, he will teach them, because their spirits need the food he has for them. They need a shepherd who can teach and direct them; bring order and vision to their lives.

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