"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

19th SUNDAY (B) August 12, 2018

I Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34; Ephesians 4: 30-5:2; John 6: 41-51

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Thank you.



 

 19th

Sunday

Ordinary

Time

I usually pack a meal as I leave for the airport. Flying across country requires food – breakfast, lunch, or even dinner for the plane. If I should forget, I can pick up something at the airport. Have you ever tried counting restaurants, fast food, ice cream, dessert and coffee places in the terminal as you head for your gate? So much food and such variety! They even sell food on the plane, no longer free, but if you’re hungry, it’s there for the purchase.

Did Elijah just forget to pack some food and water for his desert trip? Not very wise of him, considering the ardors of desert travel. Is it just physical hunger that has him praying for death? How bad are things for him? Pretty bad – and it is not just food for his body that has him so distressed. In fact, his physical needs take second place to his depleted spirit.

How did Elijah get himself in such a predicament anyway – hungry, thirsty and downhearted in the desert? Enter the infamous Jezebel. She was from Tyre and Sidon, the pagan wife of Ahab, Israel’s king. He allowed her to continue worshiping her pagan gods. She even incited her husband to abandon the worship of Yahweh and adopt the rituals of the deities Baal and Asherah. On Mount Carmel Elijah confronted the pagan prophets Jezebel brought with her, won a contest against them and had them slaughtered. (The account is quite spectacular, with even some hints of humor.1 Kings 18:17-40) As a result, Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life and he fled to the desert. That’s where we find him today, praying for death. He could go no further on his own.

But God had plans for the discouraged prophet and would support and guide him on. An angel gave Elijah food and encouragement. "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!" Angel is derived from the Greek "angelos," which means "messenger." Sometimes an angel seems to be a distinct being; other times it may represent God’s presence – the biblical writers’ way of respecting the divine transcendence.

We know that the first readings are chosen because they show similarities and links to the gospel selected for the day. So, we note that Elijah, hungry in the desert, anticipates Jesus’ time in the desert. (We Christians also identify with the church’s time in the desert of Lent.) We know our personal desert times when we have experienced our limitations and dead ends. God provides food for Elijah and Jesus responds to the temptation to turn stones into bread by reminding humans we don’t just need bread for life, but "every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).

The Elijah narrative encourages us to trust in the gracious love of God. It’s not a story about someone who has merited and "deserves" help from God. It is a tale of a human who can’t help himself. Which leaves plenty of room for God to move in with bread and water, nourishment to continue the journey.

Which is what God is providing for us today at this Eucharist for whatever desert we find ourselves. Keep in mind God’s nourishment isn’t just for us as individuals, but for a community that finds itself in the desert. As I write this, the New York Times features a front page story of sexual abuse charges against a very high ranking American cardinal. Will it never end! How much more will the church have to suffer hunger in this desert of scandal?

We may not find ourselves hungry and thirsty in the same desert Elijah was in. But life has given most of us a taste – maybe a big one – of our own hunger, fatigue and discouragement. We are all on a journey and we need a food that, not only satisfies us temporarily, but will sustain us to the end with wisdom to guide us on the right path. Life will present us with joys and satisfaction, as well as moments of struggle, loss and pain. We will have love and achievement, but also broken relationships and disappointment. Some of our best made plans and goals falter and even fail. Those we love will support us; but some will let us down when we need them the most. Our travels vary, but as the scriptures remind us today, God will be our constant and supporting presence, guiding and sustaining us in the unique ways we are each called to serve God.

That’s what Elijah discovered at the lowest point of his life, when he was so disillusioned and discouraged he wanted to die. Like us, the program Elijah had to learn was total reliance on God. He was at his life’s limits with no visible means of support. He felt let down by God and unable to provide for himself. Where was the God who first called him into service? By what means could he survive? Certainly not by his own.

What does Elijah learn and what does his experience teach us? He was at the end of his rope and saw no way out. Yet, he gave himself into God’s hands and God fed him with the bread and drink he needed to continue his journey on the mission God had given him.

We learn from Elijah and Jesus today of God’s love for us. We are invited to put our faith into practice. Faith is not an escape from the sometimes harsh realities of life. Elijah must return to face his enemies. Jesus will not escape the pain and death that lies ahead for him. Nor can we just shrug our shoulders and leave everything for God to take care of. Our faith enables us to experience God’s presence with us both as comfort and encouragement, so that we can do what we have to do.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081218.cfm

QUOTABLE

It is not healthy to love silence while fleeing interaction with others, to want peace and quiet while avoiding activity, to seek prayer while disdaining service. Everything can be accepted and integrated into our life in this world, and become a part of our path to holiness. We are called to be contemplatives even in the midst of action and to grow in holiness by responsibly and generously carrying out our proper mission.

---Pope Francis, "Rejoice and Be Glad: Gaudete et Exsultate," #26.

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.

Ephesians 4: 31

Ephesians is the great Pauline letter about the worldwide church and emphasizes the unity that is needed within God’s household that is the church of Christ. Ethical admonition is not lacking as we see in the above reading. To read what the church teaches today on this subject, we have only to look at the USCCB document on faithful citizenship.

In "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," the Catholic bishops of the United States urge all people to practice civility, charity and justice in public life (no. 60). In his essay, "Civil Discourse: Speaking Truth in Love," Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, reflects on how Catholics can carry out this call to civil dialogue.

He states that "Increasingly, there is a tendency to disparage the name and reputation, the character and life, of a person because he or she holds a different position. The identifying of some people as "bigots" and "hate mongers" simply because they hold a position contrary to another’s has unfortunately become all too commonplace today. Locally, we have witnessed rhetorical hyperbole that, I believe, long since crossed the line between reasoned discourse and irresponsible demagoguery. . . Why is it so important that we respect both our constitutional right to free speech and our moral obligation that we not bear false witness against another? A profoundly basic reason is that we do not live alone. While each of us can claim a unique identity, we are, nonetheless, called to live out our lives in relationship with others -- in some form of community." In Ephesians, the community is the church.

Cardinal Wuerl lays out seven ground rules for civil dialogue:

1. Make sure everyone has an opportunity to speak.

2. Share your personal experience, not someone else’s.

3. Listen carefully and respectfully. Speak carefully and respectfully. Do not play the role of know-it-all, convincer or corrector. Remember that a dialogue is not a debate.

4. Don’t interrupt unless for clarification or time keeping.

5. Accept that no group or viewpoint has a complete monopoly on the truth.

6. "Be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than condemn it" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2478, quoting St. Ignatius of Loyola).

7. Be cautious about assigning motives to another person.

To read both documents, go to: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/ or http://www.civilizeit.us/

---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 said,

"No one can come to me unless the Father

who sent me draws them."

Reflection:

People cannot achieve God on their own, they must be drawn by God, the One who gives faith. The invitation is always before us. Shall we accept again, what the religious authorities rejected, the bread that has come down from heaven?

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/

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"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

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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