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“FIRST IMPRESSIONS”
6th SUNDAY (B) February 14, 2021
Leviticus 13: 1-2, 44-46; Psalm 32;
I Corinthians 10: 31-11:1; Mark 1: 40-45
by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

WELCOME: To the latest email recipients of “First Impressions,” the women retreatants from Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, N.C.


 The

 Sixth

 SUNDAY

   2021

I have to confess as a preacher I tend to skip over the Sunday second readings. They are almost always taken from the letters the apostles, especially Paul, wrote to the early Christian communities and are among the earliest written proclamations of the good news. But since they lack the narrative characteristics of the Gospels they don’t “grab” listeners the way gospel stories do. So, we preachers tend not to draw on them for our preaching but, for the most part, concentrate on the gospel passage, or a vivid narrative from the first reading, the Hebrew Scriptures. So, in this edition I thought I would focus on our second reading from 1 Corinthians. First some background.

Corinth was the capital of the Roman province Achaia. It was a thriving center of commerce, learning, athletic contests and pagan shrines. It was a city that offered Paul numerous opportunities to preach and teach about Jesus to the sophisticated Corinthians. I Corinthians confirms what we know from our own experience: cultural and political values of a society can influence our ways of living our Christian beliefs. Like the Corinthians our secular values creep into our church life and rip and tear at our unity and holiness. Being a good citizen does not always flow over to our being good Christians. In his two letters to the Corinthians Paul struggles against how divisive the values of the world can be on the believing community.

Our passage today, taken from chapter 10, is from a section of the letter where Paul has commented on food and drink. When Christians were invited to the homes of non-Christians they faced a dilemma: could they eat the food placed before them that had been offered on altars to the pagan gods? Was it permissible to eat meat offered to a god they knew didn’t exist?

Paul’s concern wasn’t about the “enlightened Christians” who would not have a problem eating the food, but about the more scrupulous Christians in the community. For Paul the food was not the issue, but he was concerned about the effects eating it would have on others. The Corinthian Christians must be sensitive to the scruples of others and also set an example for their pagan neighbors.

As children we knew our Jewish neighbors weren’t permitted to eat pork or shellfish. We did and thought they were missing good food we ate regularly – like bacon and eggs. But we admired their eating customs because they signaled to us the devotion and observance our Jewish friends had to their faith. We did not eat meat on Friday, but that was only once a week.

From the issue over food Paul draws principles that can and should be applied elsewhere. He concluded that idols meant nothing, since the gods they represented did not exist. So Christians could eat the food, but not if doing so scandalizes someone in the Christian community (I Cor 8: 1-13; 10:23-29). What Paul said about eating food sacrificed in pagan worship is foreign to us. But note the principle Paul draws: everything that is permissible may not be edifying. Sometimes we have to renounce our “lighted principles” out of respect for others. “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Avoid giving offense....”

Paul counsels us that we give glory to God when we serve one another and seek unity among God’s people. God is not glorified if my choices cause wrangling and division in the community. If fact, such behavior is a negative witness to those who may be young in the faith, or considering joining the community. Paul felt free to eat food sacrificed to idols, but, if by doing so, others would be offended, he would abstain.

Paul’s principle for behavior is, “do everything for the glory of God,” and, “please everyone in every way.” He is advising the Corinthian Christians to be careful that we do not give offense, “please everyone.” Our faith has its interior practices – prayer, meditation, study, etc. It also has exterior forms which give witness to what we believe and the One to whom we give our lives. Paul gives us cause to reflect. We ought to be concerned that all we do and say gives glory to God. If we do not consider the example our behavior gives we can be an obstacle to others coming to know Christ. Our primary concern is for the well-being of others, even over our personal interest. It is about more than table customs and manners. All we Christians do and say should show the life of Christ shining through our daily lives and reflect sensitivity to the consciences of others.

Paul concludes saying, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” That sounds bold doesn’t it? But people can imitate Paul because his behavior isn’t based on himself but because he is an “imitator of Christ.” He does not just mean that his ethics follow Christ’s teachings. Rather, his whole life imitates what Christ has shown us by his humility and acceptance of death for our sake (Phil. 2:6-11). That’s the pattern Christ has set in Paul’s life and so his life manifests not himself, but the life of Christ.

Paul uses his own behavior to illustrate what he is saying, “...just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit, but that of the many, that they may be saved." Christ did not give up on his disciples who were slow coming to understanding his message. Paul is implying that we need to do the same with those who are still in the early stages of their faith, or are considering whether or not to join us in following Christ and his way.

For the past several weeks we have had sequential readings from I Corinthians. During this pandemic some people say that with limited mobility they find they have had a little more time to read and meditate. Today’s passage from comes from a summary section of the letter. If we have not done it before, we might try reading the entire letter in its totality, even in one sitting. When we do we will get an overview of what characterized the Corinthian church, its strengths, flaws and discover the similarities with our own church community and discover how Paul responded to the needs before him. Why not put some time aside to do that? As we read the letter we will hear Paul’s call to more authentic Christian living and the challenge to us modern Christians to give witness to our world.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/021421.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

“Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many. . ..”

(1 Corinthians 10:32-33)

Love is on the mind today, especially since it is Valentine’s Day, and Paul calls everyone in the above passage to think of others and what would benefit them--to put love in action. This is also what our Church seeks when we focus on the common good.

In Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, Laudato Si, he states that as a central and unifying principle of social ethics, the common good is “the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfilment”(4:156). He goes on to say, “In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters” (4:158). “Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good” (4:157) not only for current lives but also for future generations.

There are three key points to the common good:

1. Respect for the human person who is endowed with basic and inalienable rights as necessary for his or her integral development

2. The overall welfare of society and the development of a variety of intermediate groups, especially, the family as the basic cell of society

3. Calls for social peace, “the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues” (ibid.).

Distributive justice is concerned with the fair allocation of resources among diverse members of a community. For example, public programs that provide social security or medical care to all elderly and retired persons are examples of distributive justice. Public schools, which all children have an equal opportunity to attend, are another example. When thinking of working for the common good through the use of distributive justice, think of the idiom, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Have a love-filled day!

Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS, Director,
Office of Human Life, Dignity, and 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 I Corinthian reading:

“Whatever we do,
do everything for the glory of God.”

Reflection:

Paul counsels us that we give glory to God when we serve one another and seek unity among God’s people. God is not glorified if my choices cause wrangling and division in the community. If fact, such behavior is a negative witness to those who may be young in the faith, or considering joining the community.

So we ask ourselves:

  • How does my daily life reflect my identity as a Christian?

  • What do I do that denies my claim to be a Christian?

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

This is a particularly vulnerable time for state and federal prisoners. Conditions, even without the pandemic, are awful in our prisons. Imagine what it is like now with the virus spreading through the close and unhealthy prison settings. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of the inmates listed below to let them know we have not forgotten them. If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • James Davis #0510234 (On death row since 10/21/96)

  • Melvin White #0434355 (10/15/96)

  • Lawrence Peterson #0320825 (12/12/96)

----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/  On this page you can sign “The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty.” 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: https://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

  • Individual CDs for each Liturgical Year, A, B or C

  • One combined CD for “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: www.PreacherExchange.com  and clicking on the “First Impressions” CD link on the left.

2. “Homilias 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.org -  Where you will find “Preachers’ Exchange,” which includes “First Impressions” and “Homilias 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


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