"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "

CHRIST THE KING (A) NOVEMBER 26, 2017

Ez. 34: 11-12, 15-17; Ps. 23; 1Corinthians 15: 20-26, 28; Matthew 25: 31-46

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

REMINDER: Next Sunday begins a new liturgical year. We have a CD for liturgical Year B which is a collection of previous editions of "First Impressions." It contains three reflections for almost all the Sundays and major feasts of the year. It also has book reviews and additional essays related to preaching.

In addition, we have also compiled a CD for all three 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:  http://www.preacherexchange.com/cd.htm and clicking on the "First Impressions" CDs link on the left.


 

Christ

the

KING

2017

Things are ending. Today is the last Sunday in the liturgical year and our parable is the last one in Matthew’s gospel. So, the readings are important reminders, spoken to us now and meant to keep us till the end times. Before parents leave the house they usually give parting instructions to their children: "Don’t fight. Don’t turn on the stove. Don’t let a stranger in, etc." In a way, that’s what today’s readings are, important reminders and information for us as we close out this liturgical year.

We will make two stops on our way to the gospel. First, we look at the Ezekiel reading, because it gives a setting for the gospel. Ezekiel wrote a hopeful message for the people in exile. Beginning with David, Israel’s kings were called the shepherds of God’s flock. But mostly they weren’t the guiding and protective shepherds David was. As a result, the people were left unattended, like sheep left for prey in the wilderness. Hence Ezekiel’s harsh words for the failed shepherds. The prophet blames them for the conquest and disgrace the people are experiencing in exile. But as dire as the circumstances are, the people are not without hope. God has noticed their plight and promises to rescue them.

In this brief passage I count God saying 11 times, "I myself," or "I will." The prophet makes it quite clear that God is taking control and God will come to their aid and shepherd them. God will restore them to physical, economic and political health. What Israel’s shepherds failed to do, God will do. I hear an echo of Gabriel’s message to the incredulous Mary, "For nothing is impossible for God" (Luke 1: 37)

Another stop on our way to the gospel: Paul writing to the Corinthians. (On major feasts, like today’s, all four readings – including the Psalm – are thematic.) Christ, our shepherd, has rescued us from death, "the last enemy." He is the "first fruit of those who have fallen asleep." Through him, not only humans, but all creation, will be brought under his domain. All our enemies will be subdued, even the last one, death. Christ is the shepherd we are invited to obey, love and follow. He is now in our midst and will lead us to the fullness of God’s kingdom.

The gospel parable of the last judgment picks up on the king and shepherd themes from Ezekiel. At the end time Jesus, the Shepherd King, will return, takes his seat on his throne and, surrounded by his retinue of angels, will judge the nations. He will share his glory with those he finds worthy. What will his standard be for judging? Who will "inherit the kingdom" that has been prepared for them?

Rich and prestigious rewards are usually given to those who achieve remarkable deeds – victorious military leaders, great athletes, brilliant scientists, political leaders etc. But those are not the criteria Jesus will use for the ones he calls "blessed." Instead, his invitation to those found worthy will go to the ones whose lives reflected that of Jesus: the merciful who acted kindly towards the poor, the sick, the homeless, the prisoners and the strangers. (These are acts typically listed in the Old Testament as well.) Jesus describes "the least" as his sisters and brothers.

His listing of "the least" just begins the conversation, for "least" can be used to describe any in need: refugees, undocumented, hurricane victims, uneducated, jobless, addicted, etc. Jesus’ parable opens our imagination and invites us to look around at our lives and our world. Who are the least God is calling me to serve? The great King, Jesus on his throne, has identified himself with them. Where they are, there is Jesus.

Jesus begins his parable by saying, "All the nations will be assembled before him." Did we catch his inclusivity? His universality? "The nations" is a biblical term for the whole world, including the pagan world, not just believers. Non-Christians, as well as Christians, will be judged by the same standards. The citizens of the kingdom of God are those who acted kindly, mercifully, and lovingly towards those in need, even if they haven’t known Christ.

We don’t have to be Bible scholars to hear the message of this parable. Even if we have never opened a Bible, we get the point. The parable presents many possibilities for service, We can respond to the needy, not only through church organizations, but with groups who serve the poor, hungry, sick, imprisoned and homeless. All who do good are serving Christ, whether they know it or not. But we Christians, guided by this parable, have the gift of being aware that he is the source and goal of our service. So, moved by Christ, we knowingly serve him in his sisters and brothers who need us.

A reference to our footnote below, "Postcards to Death Row Inmates." Each week we post the names of three inmates on the row. One way of following the parable’s encouragement to visit those in prison is to "visit" by writing to them. Inmates are among the parables’ forgotten – the strangers, the ill, the thirsty, and hungry – just those Jesus turns our eyes towards. See below for three more names waiting to be visited by us.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112617.cfm

QUOTABLE

To Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love

All pray in their distress

And return these virtues of delight

Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy has a human heart,

Pity a human face,

And Love–the human form divine,

And Peace, the human dress.

And all must love the human form,

In Heathen, Turk or Jew;

Where Mercy, Love and Pity dwell

There is God dwelling too.

----William Blake

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal….

(Ezekiel 34:16)

Though these words are coming from the mouth of God in Ezekiel’s writings, we, who are made in the image of God and seek to imitate Jesus, should also make these words our cause. When we stand before Divine Unconditional Love at the end of our lives, how will our love measure up?

Last Sunday (11/19/17), Pope Francis set the day aside as the First World Day of the Poor. In his message for this day, he states:

"The Son of God’s way of loving is well-known, and John spells it out clearly. It stands on two pillars: God loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:10.19), and he loved us by giving completely of himself, even to laying down his life (cf. 1 Jn 3:16).

Such love cannot go unanswered. Even though offered unconditionally, asking nothing in return, it so sets hearts on fire that all who experience it are led to love back, despite their limitations and sins. Yet this can only happen if we welcome God’s grace, his merciful charity, as fully as possible into our hearts, so that our will and even our emotions are drawn to love both God and neighbor. In this way, the mercy that wells up – as it were – from the heart of the Trinity can shape our lives and bring forth compassion and works of mercy for the benefit of our brothers and sisters in need."

Clearly, there is no other way for a confessed Christian. This Sunday, our parish participates in the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). Founded in 1970 by the Catholic bishops of the United States as their domestic anti-poverty program, CCHD is designed to address the policies and structures that perpetuate poverty to create sustainable solutions, CCHD empowers poor and marginalized people to join together and make decisions to improve their lives and neighborhoods. Our U.S. bishops ask us to • LEARN about those living in poverty. • ACT and spread the word about poverty. • CONNECT with the work of CCHD by supporting the collection. • PRAY for those who benefit from this collection.

We have many ministries working with the poor at Cathedral waiting for you to add your loving care. Check them out at www.raleighcathedral.org > parish > social justice and then contact me at socialconcern@hnojnc.org to join.

In God's image, let us shepherd the world with our love.

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:

"Amen, I say to you, whatever you did

for one of the least brothers and sisters of mine,

you did for me."

Reflection:

Jesus’ parable opens our imagination and invites us to look around at our lives and our world – especially those often overlooked. The great King, Jesus on his throne, has identified himself with the least. Where they are, there is Jesus.

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, 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:

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: 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