"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "

16th SUNDAY (A) July 23, 2017

Wisdom 12: 13, 16-19; Psalm 86; Rom 8: 26-27; Matthew 13: 24-30

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

 

  The 16th

Sunday in

Ordinary

Time

Sometimes even "experts" and people who should know better, just cannot predict how things are going to turn out. An "expert" evaluating a potential football coach said, "He possesses minimal football knowledge. Lacks motivation." He was talking about Vince Lombardi, who "lacked motivation" – but was a winning coach and is in the Pro Hall of Fame. The Super Bowl trophy is named after him. He is still famous for saying, "Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing." Lacked motivation!?

A music teacher told Enrico Caruso’s parents that he had, "No voice at all." It seems even parents can’t always judge their children’s abilities. Louisa May Alcott, who wrote "Little Women," was encouraged by her parents to find work as a servant or seamstress. The casting director wrote after Fred Astaire’s screen test, "Can’t act, slightly bald, can dance a little." Astaire had the memo framed over his fireplace. Hey, you never know!

A friend father has a 1200 acre farm in South Carolina. She was reflecting on today’s parable and said, "I left my father’s farm and went away to school. On a recent visit, early in the growing season, I looked at my father’s just-sprouting wheat and realized I couldn’t tell the weeds from the wheat. When they are sprouting they look alike until they ripen." She added, "Not even my father, a wheat farmer, can tell them apart, at first. But at harvest wheat thrives and stands tall and the weeds droop." (Maybe there is another parable about the Christian life in my friend’s observation – Christians will stand tall and weeds will droop.) The parable seems to be cautioning, "Don’t act too quickly. Don’t jump to conclusions. You never know."

When you walk into a room and people are watching a baseball game, the tendency is to ask, "Who’s winning?" We don’t ask, "Who’s losing?" As much as we love baseball, if our team loses, we get over it. Life moves on. But we want to ask the same question about a more crucial issue. "What’s winning in the world, good or evil?" In the long run, "Who’s going to thrive, the good or the evil ones? Will there be a harvest of wheat, or will the weeds choke the life out of the good?"

For example, things don’t look like they are getting any better in this century than they were last century. I was reminded of one of the horrors of last century recently when I saw again the movie, "Schindler’s List." It showed how one man cleverly saved 1,200 Jews during World War II. The film gives us something to cheer about. But still, 6 million died. Who is winning good or evil? This is not just an idle question about a ball game, is it?

The weeds are not just in the big wide world out there, they are much closer at hand, even within the church we love. Several years ago I thought, "I just can’t stand one more piece of news about clergy misconduct, or some bishop’s cover up of abuse! Even last week Australian Cardinal Pell, a close advisor to the Pope was charged with sexual crimes and cover ups! I am hoping he is innocent, but still with the servants of the household I want to ask, "Master, did you not sow good seed in you field? Where have the weeds come from?" Behind all these questions is the big one, "Will evil or good have the last word?"

The parable doesn’t give an easy answer. It doesn’t explain what’s happening: why evil exists; why there is suffering; why good gets corrupted; why the world messes up good kids? But at least it admits to the problem: good and evil co-exit, up close to one another and up close to our lives. They are intertwined and seem to be involved in a struggle for a final victory.

Weeds get into everything, even into the landscape of our own spiritual field. There definitely are times when we must make decisions about what is right and wrong. We do try to maintain standards and protections, especially for our children. Still, this is a parable that has something to say to our church and personal lives – especially when, in our enthusiasm, we are quick to judge, pull up, cast aside and give up: when we are quick to jump to conclusions about ourselves and our institutions; when we think we have all the evidence, but may not and are in no position to judge.

We do well to listen to the advise of the owner, who introduces a note of caution and a plea for patience. In effect, he is advising, "You do not really know enough to judge. All the evidence isn’t in yet."

Jesus, the teller of the parable knew this from his own experience. He chose servants to do God’s work, yet early signs did not accurately forecast the future. Judas was the keeper of the purse and showed good skills for his position. He was a "mover and a shaker." Peter, Mary Magdalen, Thomas and the rest, revealed early signs of failure, doubt and fear. Yet, he gave them a chance to grow and bear much fruit – and they did.

This is an encouraging parable for each of us. It is a story of grace, patience and hope. We look back on the mistakes we have made and are grateful we have had time to change; been able, with God’s help, to work things out. What used to be a weed, we were sure, turned out to be wheat. Suppose we had been judged back then, on the spot?

As we look and still see weeds in our lives and the lives of those around us, rather than being overcome by discouragement, the parable holds out hope for us. Good seed had been planted in us; it is growing. What’s more, the burden of the struggle isn’t ours alone. We can trust the Owner, who knows what is happening, to come to help us sort things out. If not now, then surely later – if the parable has any truth to it!

At its heart, this is a parable of confidence. God is in charge. God is not indifferent to our struggle. God is not unaware of what still needs doing. God is guiding us and the church in the process of bringing about a good harvest. We need to play this parable back in our imaginations, especially when things dismay and discourage us. We will look out at the field and think we know what is going on and what needs to be done. But we will hear this parable and the voice that says, "Not so fast. I have a plan, I can draw good out of this."

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072317.cfm

QUOTABLE

Resurrection does not simply spell the survival of the soul, but requires the transformation of the world as we know it.

Elizabeth Schusler-Fiorenza

"Jesus: Miriam’s Child, Sophia’s Prophet"

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

...those who are just must be kind.

Wisdom 12: 19

Those who are deeply immersed in social justice issues sometimes have great difficulty with kindness. Seeing an injustice continue with no change regardless of how much one does to effect change can make one quite irritated, especially in our instant gratification society. But, as St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta states, "God doesn't require us to succeed, but only requires that you try" and "God doesn't ask that we succeed in everything, but that we are faithful." Effort and faithfulness will win the day. And so the work must go on with kindness in our hearts.

One of the beautiful ministries in our area that is faithfully and kindly carried out by one of our parishioners is Meals on Wheels of Wake County. Jim Pucher writes, "I started volunteering at Meals on Wheels of Wake County about 3 years ago. I knew I would be delivering hot meals to those in need, but it turned out to be much more than just delivering meals.... It has become a very rewarding part of my life.

I was assigned a particular ‘route’ with somewhere around 8 meals to deliver each day that I do deliveries. . .This is a nice, balanced, and hot meal that usually includes a meat, vegetable, milk, juice, bread, and fresh fruit....many of these customers need these meals delivered due to their inability to cook for themselves. Maybe it is due to age, or disability or other personal issues. But regardless of the reason, they welcome getting at least this one hot meal per day during the week. But it is not just about delivering a hot meal....This is also an opportunity to ‘check in’ with these people once per day to make sure they are doing OK. If they don't answer the door, or if they appear to need help, we can call the main office of Meals on Wheels to help.

Now these customers are almost like my neighbors. Over time I get to know them and it is a pleasure to help them in some way a few times a week. In dropping off a meal, in just saying ‘Hello’, and in checking up on them to make sure they are not in need of help."

If you would like to learn more, go to: www.wakemow.org or to offer your help with Meals on Wheels of Wake County, contact Brenda Johnson at 919-390-3934.

Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Raleigh, NC

 

FAITH BOOK

 

16th SUNDAY (A) July 23, 2017

Wisdom 12: 13, 16-19; Psalm 86; Rom 8: 26-27; Matthew 13: 24-30

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:

"If you pull up the weeds

you might uproot the wheat along with them.

Let them grow together until the harvest...."

Reflection:

We do well to listen to the advise of the owner, who introduces a note of caution and a plea for patience. In effect, he is advising, "You do not really know enough to judge right now. All the evidence isn’t in yet."

So we ask ourselves:

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:

Here is an inmate who can use some postcards and letters right now.

Gene Mc Curdy #K50300 3 EB 79

San Quentin Prison

San Quentin, CA 94975

----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/

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If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

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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.

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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