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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

6th SUNDAY OF EASTER (A) May 17, 2020

Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17; Psalm 66; 1 Peter 3: 15-18; John 14: 15-21

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

THANK YOU! I appreciate the donations you gave in response to our appeal for help a couple weeks ago. I wrote personal notes of thanks, if I missed you, sorry, please accept this "thank you."

If you would still like to donate, please send a check to:

Dominican Fathers of Irving

3150 Vince Hagan Dr.

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Or: For an online donation go to:

https://www.preacherexchange.com/donations.htm



These days I have a better understanding of the Psalms of Lament. About two thirds of the 150 Psalms are laments. If you want to look them up here are a few: 3, 28, 40, 55, 64, 120.... There are many more; more than Psalms of Thanksgiving, Trust, Praise, Wisdom, etc. Doesn’t that give you a clue to the conditions the Jews experienced, not just as individuals, but the whole community? Lament Psalms complain to God about human enemies, personal feelings of unworthiness, confess sins and make strong pitches to God for help in desperate situations.

I was taught a "proper language" when addressing God; a certain "etiquette of prayer." In human relations however, we are taught to "speak up," "let it all out," "clear the air." But not with God, we were taught that you shouldn’t address angry words to God. So, we "watch our tongues" in prayer. After all, we are talking to the Almighty, whom we best not upset. Still, during times like these aren’t you frightened for yourself and your loved ones and our world? Don’t we feel confused and frustrated and want to shout out, "What have we done wrong that you are punishing us so!?" A voice from our childhood shushes us, "You shouldn’t talk to God that way!" But our Jewish ancestors did, why can’t we?

They vented their feelings to God; they questioned and complained. To whom else could they voice their objections, they were an oppressed people for much of their history? They had to know their place and obey, or else. So, they raised their voices and maybe their fists, to God. You have to be very confident in a relationship to raise your voice in anger; confident that your words will be heard and the relationship is strong enough to withstand your words and emotions.

The Jews had a long relationship with God and knew that God was faithful and, even if they spoke up in anger, God would not cast them off, or smite them down. So, they prayed their Lament Psalms throughout the long history of displacement, misunderstanding and oppression – right up to, through and beyond the Holocaust.

Today’s Psalm 66 is a joyous response to our Acts’ account of the spread of the faith and the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Samaritans. It is a hymn of praise following, as it does, upon the good news in Acts. Still, I hear people voicing other sentiments these days, feelings I also have bubbling up to the surface: "Why is this plague happening to us? Why are so many good people suffering and dying? Where are you O God? How long?"

It is with these feelings and questions that I turn to and find comfort in today’s gospel, especially in Jesus’ words, "I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you." Jesus is speaking to his disciples seated around the table the night before he died – we are in the midst of his "Last Discourse." Our faith is summed up in his words to them, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Whatever the differences in our faith community, our background and ways of thinking, we are people who love Jesus. We love his way of being and thinking and we accept his manner of life. We not only love Jesus, we do our best to keep his commandments, and act on the love he shows to us. If we do not, our faith is shallow and without commitment.

I do not know if the disciples were feeling warm and cozy, sharing a meal with their charismatic leader and one another. But within hours any warm feelings they might have had would dissolve into terror. He was to be violently taken away from them and when he was, would they remember his words as they prayed Psalms of Lament, or in their own grieving, pained words?

What about us? We, like those disciples, have sat around the table with Jesus and been fed his very life. Today, because of the pandemic, many lament their inability to return to that nourishing table of presence. Another reason to lament. Can we receive Jesus’ presence in his word? Can we lean on the promise he makes to us, as he did to his companions on the verge of their faith-shaking experience? There is reason enough to lament, complain and speak words of befuddlement to God.

But the word Jesus speaks to us today stirs the very love he asks of us. He knows the pain of his disciples. Our love for him is not a sentimental, cozy love. It is being tested by fire. Our divine Lover assures us these days of the gift of the Advocate – the Spirit of truth, who speaks to us the truth of God’s love for us when we have ample reason to lament and complain.

The Spirit is God’s permanent presence in our midst, not only in us individually, but a sustaining presence in our faith community. Jesus is true to his promise. He has not left us orphans, but has gifted us with his Spirit. And more. That Spirit is not just for believers but, as he described earlier, "blows where it will" (3:8).

Haven’t you noticed Jesus’ Spirit diligently at work among us these days when medical staffs, food store workers, janitorial personnel and bus drivers are sacrificing their lives for others –just as Jesus did and as he continues to do for us through their self offering? True to his word, he has not left us orphans – just look around.

Yes, we have plenty good reason to pray our Psalms of Lament. After we have done that and trusted in Jesus’ promise that he has not left us orphans, we are ready to turn to our Psalm Response (#66) and proclaim: "Let all the earth cry out to God with joy." – And let’s do that today!

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051720.cfm

ONE GOOD BOOK FOR US ALL

 

John C. Endres and Elizabeth Liebert: "A Retreat with the Psalms" (New York: Paulist Press, 2001)

 

We often neglect the Psalms in our preaching and personal prayer. This book combines both a modern critical study and a prayerful approach to the Psalms.

 

I have used as a resource for preaching, study and prayer and highly recommend it.

 

 

 JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"Let all the earth cry out to God with joy."

Psalm 66

As I am writing this article, an Earth Day Live event is happening on-line. The event has continuous reports, interviews, music, videos of both the destruction of the earth and gorgeous views of the earth, as well as lots of young people and activists talking about the work they are doing to increase awareness of the need to help the environment. Creation care has come into acute awareness with the pandemic brought by COVID-19. With the world shut down, suddenly the air is clearer, waters are cleaner, birds are singing louder; we are a world being forced to rest. Yet, the ones suffering the most now with both climate change and with the virus, are the most vulnerable--the elderly, the poor, the front line workers. We need to wake up from our inattention to both the earth and each other.

Five years ago, Pope Francis wrote a teaching document called, "Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home." Five years later, most Catholics have not even read it. And this week, May 16-24, is Laudato Si Week. The theme of this week is "Everything is Connected" and this effort launches a year-long journey of transformation, as we grow through the crisis of the current moment by praying, reflecting, and preparing together to build a better tomorrow.

From the website:

"We’re living through history-shaping events. Laudato Si’ teaches us how to build a better world–together.

"People everywhere are crying out for hope, and our faith is urgently needed to light the way. For Laudato Si’ Week, May 16-24, Catholics are uniting in solidarity for a more just and sustainable future.

"Reflect and prepare through online trainings, May 16-23.

Join the worldwide day of prayer, May 24.

Put preparation into action during the Season of Creation, this coming September." Go to: https://laudatosiweek.org/

As Pope Francis writes, "We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature" (#139).

To join our local Creation Care Network, contact socialconcern@hnojnc.org

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:

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,

to be with you always."

Reflection:

The Advocate, the Spirit, is God’s permanent presence in our midst, not only in us individually, but a sustaining presence in our faith community. Jesus is true to his promise. He has not left us orphans, but has gifted us with his Spirit, our strength and companion for these difficult days.

So we ask ourselves:

  • How is your faith being tested these days?
  • Does Jesus’ promise to give us "another Advocate" help at all? How?

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:

  • Allen Hollan #0587681 (On death row since 4/7/98)
  • Timmy Grooms #0158506 (4/24/98)
  • Tilmon Golphin #0590940 (5/13/98)

----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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