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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

Of the Lord's Passion (A) April 5, 2020

Procession Gospel Matthew 21: 1-11

Isaiah 50: 4-7; Psalm 22; Philippians 2: 6-11; Matthew 26: 14-- 27:66

By: Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

The stock market has been having trouble these days. But if we had invested in blueberries we would be doing well. Have you ever noticed how popular blueberries have become. They show us at almost every meal. I have a friend who makes blueberry muffins for her husband. He has one each morning for breakfast. So one day I commented on it. Her response was, "Well, blueberries help our memory." Doesn’t that comment touch into a concern many of us have? The fear of losing our memory, and what that would mean for our past and present relationships, keeps us eating blueberries, doing crossword puzzles, and paying attention to televison specials on how to improve our memories. We are trying to keep our minds and memories active and strong.

But even with all these efforts, we still forget. We forget dates, appointments and names of people we have met. It’s embarrassing to be reminded by someone that we have forgotten an appointment, or the name of a person we have recently met.

Still, there are many important events we remember: the date of our birth, wedding anniversary (we hope!), the date of the death of a loved one, the birth of a child, or grandchild.

There are other events that we also remember – many of us seniors remember where we were when we heard of President Kennedy’s assassination. Music fans remember the shooting death of John Lennon in 1980. We remember, or are reminded by the national holiday, of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Each year, the media helps us recall the motor accident that killed Princess Diana of Wales.

These deaths were so senseless, violent and unexpected. Remembering them stirs up powerful feelings and emotions for us. This is the week we faithful remember another violent, shocking death. To the casual onlooker Jesus’ death might seem like the death of just one more famous and beloved person, whose life came to an abrupt end. Today we hear the beginning of this story as he enters Jerusalem one last time. For Jesus his death wasn’t sudden or unexpected. He could see it coming, but nevertheless, to use the image of the prophet Isaiah in today’s reading, Jesus set his face like flint towards Jerusalem. Nothing would turn him back, even the violence he would meet there. They would mock him, torture him, pierce his feet and hand and then bury him, hoping that would be the end: presuming that his disciples and the crowds would forget about him. But there was something the officials hadn’t planned on. God is a God of life, not death and God could draw life even from what is shattered and dead.

We remember him not just because he was once a beloved and famous religious leader, but because his death and rising from the dead is the full announcement to us about how much God loves us. That’s the reason he died – because he proclaimed God’s love for us. He spoke of a kingdom that includes all peoples, of all races, nationalities, economic backgrounds; one that was open to Jews and Gentiles. Jesus announced God’s forgiveness, and preached about a God who would even take back those who had wandered and turned their backs on God. He welcomed those who lived on the edge of society and traditional religious beliefs.

For these very reasons he was a threat to both the religious and Roman authorities, so they collaborated to get rid of him and his message. Jesus saw the end coming. He told his disciples again what was going to happen and he stayed faithful to his message. That cost him his life. He could have changed his message. He could have walked away and lived to a ripe old age, but he didn’t.

This week we remember Jesus’ violent and tragic death. But it wasn’t a senseless death, because for us it means life. He showed us how to live a faithful life as a child of God and, more than that, he was raised from the dead. When he returned, he gave us his Spirit so that we too could live as children of God. Our remembering is not simply a calling to mind past events that might stir up feelings of guilt, or sympathy. This week we’re remembering with gratitude that Jesus is a presence with us now and is a promise for our future.

The best way to remember Jesus is to receive his presence at this Eucharist and be nourished by it so that we can do what he did – set our face like flint against the violence of our world. We know that the earthy Jesus suffers no more, but the body of Christ in the world continues to suffer. For Jesus said, I was hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, and naked. We remember those words and so, nourished by the Eucharist, we continue to serve the suffering body of Christ.

Our crucified God’s passion speaks loudly of love and God’s closeness to us. Through Jesus’ suffering God chose to come close to all who suffer illness, lose, depression, and addiction. God is also close to all who choose to return love for evil; who forgive for past grievances; who reach out to the rejected. This week also reminds us that God is close to all who work for peace in a world that chooses violence and force to achieve its ends. We are reminded to let the grace Jesus offers us during this week we call "holy" work within us and transform us so that we can love others as he did.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040520.cfm

 

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

 

...he humbled himself. . .

Philippians 2:8

Perhaps the most beautiful words that I have read on the way of humility are found in Pope Francis’ Homily for Palm Sunday last year (4/14/2019). Below, are his words:

"Today, too, by his entrance into Jerusalem, he shows us the way. For in that event, the evil one, the prince of this world, had a card up his sleeve: the card of triumphalism. Yet the Lord responded by holding fast to his own way, the way of humility.

"Triumphalism tries to make it to the goal by shortcuts and false compromises. It wants to jump onto the carriage of the winner. It lives off gestures and words that are not forged in the crucible of the cross; it grows by looking askance at others and constantly judging them inferior, wanting, failures… One subtle form of triumphalism is spiritual worldliness, which represents the greatest danger, the most treacherous temptation threatening the Church (De Lubac). Jesus destroyed triumphalism by his Passion.

"The Lord truly rejoiced with the people, with those young people who shouted out his name and acclaimed him as King and Messiah. His heart was gladdened to see the enthusiasm and excitement of the poor of Israel. So much so, that, to those Pharisees who asked him to rebuke his disciples for their scandalous acclamations, he replied: "If these were silent, the very stones would cry out" (Lk 19:40). Humility does not mean denying reality: Jesus really is the Messiah, the King.

"Yet at the same time the heart of Jesus was moving on another track, on the sacred path known to him and the Father alone: the path that leads from "the form of God" to "the form of a servant", the path of self-abasement born of obedience "unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:6-8). He knows that true triumph involves making room for God and that the only way to do that is by stripping oneself, by self-emptying. To remain silent, to pray, to accept humiliation. There is no negotiating with the cross: one either embraces it or rejects it. By his self-abasement, Jesus wanted to open up to us the path of faith and to precede us on that path."

https://zenit.org/articles/pope-francis-homily-for-palm-sunday-full-text/

Will we, as Jesus’ disciples, follow the card of triumphalism or the way of humility?

---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 Isaiah reading:

The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue,

that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them....

Morning after morning, God opens my ear that I may hear....

Reflection:

Isaiah suggests that our first responsibility isn’t to speak, but to listen. God’s gift of a "well-trained tongue" comes because "God opens my ear that I may hear." If our words are to bear fruit they must come from the silence we observe as we listen for God’s Word. Lent is a good time to train ourselves to listen better – to God and those around us each day.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Do I consider myself a good listener?
  • What do those closest to me say about my listening skill?

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:

  • Walic Thomas #0405380 (On death row since 8/9/96)
  • James Davis #0510234 (10/2/96)
  • Melvin White #0434355 (10/15/96)

----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. "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.org - 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


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