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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

14th SUNDAY -C- JULY 3, 2022

Isaiah 66: 10-14; Psalm 66;
Galatians 6: 14-18; Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20

By: Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

The use of the past, present and future tenses in our Isaiah reading today are clues to what was happening when the prophet spoke these words. There are both mourning and rejoicing in the text; but they are not happening at the same time: mourning is in the past and present; rejoicing in the future.

Jerusalem and Israel herself, were decimated and the most valued and productive citizens taken off into Babylonian exile. From their exile people had mourned over Jerusalem and Isaiah had comforted them there. Now the exiles have returned to Jerusalem, a happy relief from years as slaves in a foreign and pagan land. But their return also had a sadness about it as they looked over the ruins of their beloved Holy City. What made things worse was that they believed they were responsible for what they saw; that their sins and infidelities towards God had resulted in their banishment and Jerusalem’s devastation.

How painful it is to look upon the result of our misguided, or sinful choices. We not only feel personal guilt, we can also see the pain and disintegration our acts have caused others. And more, for sin is not just a personal matter – sin is also a collective reality. A society’s sin not only shows itself in its own divisiveness, violence and isolation, but it causes suffering in other, less powerful communities and nations. For example, environmental concerns are showing that affluent nations’ abuse and overuse of natural resources have very visible and deleterious effects on poorer surrounding nations. It isn’t hard to identify with the exiles who looked out on ruin and felt they had no one to blame for the ruination but themselves.

We are in the last chapter of Isaiah, in a section called "Trito-Isaiah." The final message addressed to the post-exilic citizens of Jerusalem isn’t one of accusation, "Look what your sins have done!" Instead, the oracle is one of hope and salvation and in very concrete images. Jerusalem will be restored; she will bring comfort to the defeated and deflated people who are gazing on her ruins. "For thus says the Lord...." That’s how the impossible restoration will happen – God will be the one to restore Jerusalem to such a condition of splendor and wholeness that she, like a concerned mother, will be able to suckle her injured children. Jerusalem will console the inconsolable.

But there is a quick shift in the proclamation of good news. It isn’t mother Jerusalem who will be a comfort to those who are presently mourning – it is God who, through Jerusalem, will be the Mother to her scattered and frayed children. When I preached at Sunday Eucharist in prison it was self-defeating for me to put too much emphasis on father images for God – despite the New Testament’s use of the title "Father" for the divine. From many conversations I had with inmates, many of their experiences with their fathers were of life-shattering abandonment and brutality. But for the vast majority, their mothers remained constant, loving and forgiving, when everyone else had given up on them.

If I were preaching in prison this weekend, I would focus on this reading. But not just in a prison. Many people live in a variety of prisons in our modern world. They live with shattering memories of past abuse, or violence in their homes; they suffer at the hands of demanding authority figures; their own fathers may have abandoned them, or never shown affection for them, etc. They and we need to hear a fuller version of God’s Word – such as this Isaiah text which draws an image of God in maternal terms. We need to hear about a God who suckles us when we are battered; who doesn’t expect us to "shape up" to earn love; who wants to rush to pick us up when we trip on life’s broken sidewalks; hushes us when we try to explain ourselves and tells us she understands and then goes to the cupboard to get us a fresh piece of homemade bread.

All of which God is doing at this Eucharist. Listen to the maternal voice that speaks to us from the very opening of today’s liturgy in the penitential rite, saying to us, "Of course I forgive you. Hush and listen to my comforting Word and here, eat this special food and drink I have prepared for you."

We know the first and gospel readings are chosen to pair with one another. We can read one to get some light thrown on the other. What I hear in today’s gospel is the tender and nurturing care Isaiah says God has, reflected in Jesus’ concern for the disciples he is sending out on mission. Is it stretching it to say that Jesus is the New Jerusalem who comforts and nurtures those in exile, who gathers the scattered, in whom you "shall find your comfort?" How shall he gather, restore and nurture so many and fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy, "The Lord’s power shall be known to God’s Servants."? He will do it through his disciples. Luke tells us Jesus sends out seventy two – and, as we also know, today he sends us out to follow those who were originally sent.

As he looks over the abundant harvest, instead of immediately sending the disciples out, Jesus directs them to pray to "the Master of the harvest to send out laborers." Big moments in Luke’s gospel are placed in prayerful contexts. Those who come to serve will be the fruit of our prayer and discernment. A visit to any parish reveals that those who proclaim the gospel today do it in so many diverse ways: serving at the altar in various ministerial roles; visiting the sick and imprisoned; planning liturgical celebrations; working on the budget committee; welcoming people at the church doors; answering phones in the parish office, etc. Today might be a good day to raise up these and many other ministers before the worshiping community, to celebrate their gifts and give thanks to God who richly answers our prayers for harvest laborers. God is in charge of the harvest and God sees to the supply of laborers. Those of us who are the "laborers" need to remember that ultimately we are not in charge, no matter how highly ranked or exalted we are in the community.

It is good to start with prayer because what lies ahead for the disciples has strong hints of danger and rejection: they will be like "lambs among wolves" and they will not always be well received. How could the disciples expect anything other than Jesus (the lamb of God) himself received? Because the road ahead will be rough going, the disciples will not be able to rely on their own resources or ingenuity. That’s why Jesus suggests the disciples, "Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals and greet no one along the way." Having gone through airport security check points that require a driver’s license and cash or a credit card for transportation to and from the airport, or bridge tolls if I am driving, I know I can’t interpret Jesus’ directive literally. Not in the twenty first century!

Nevertheless, I do sense that Jesus’ reminder about the difficulty of the task he has assigned his witnesses will require faith in him more than reliance on self. I also know that preoccupation with things can be a distraction for traveling disciples – whether we are itinerant preachers, or heads of households with a marriage to tend to, children to raise and mortgages to pay. Each of us is sent; each has to respond in prayer as to where and in what manner we are sent.

The disciples are Jesus’ forerunners. Luke tells us that they are being sent "to every town and place he intended to visit." They are his ambassadors. I note that the first words they are to speak are words of peace: "Peace to this household." Their presence and their words immediately reflect the One who sent them, whom Luke reminds us from the beginning of his gospel, is the One who brings us peace with God and all men and women.

We Americans are about to celebrate our freedom on July 4th. We want our nation to be like the city on the hill that Isaiah describes, where the lost and needy will find rest. That seems to be a partially fulfilled dream with just too many exceptions to the rule! God isn’t only concerned about fulfilling that dream in the next life. Rather, the prophets and Jesus want this time, place and this nation to reflect the reign of God. God’s rule is manifested whenever: we respect one another and try to live in loving relationships; work to bring about justice; reflect in words and deeds the image of our loving God. That’s a tall order, especially considering our bellicose world and national situations. But a small place to begin would be to make the first words we speak be, "Peace to this household." We could say it in those words or, to be more "practical and realistic," we could say it in other words by: not returning violence with violence; doing our best to diffuse anger and hatred; treating all people equally; respecting the rights of both the well-established and the newcomer; working to make neighborhoods and communities less violent; protecting the abused and the ridiculed. There are an infinite number of ways to say, "Peace to this household." We follow Jesus’ guidance today and first pray that the Spirit accompany us to the places we are sent to announce the reign of God. We ask the Spirit to help us announce and be "Peace."

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

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/070322.cfm

PRAYER FOR PEACE IN UKRAINE

The prayer of Saint Francis

Lord make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred...let me sow love

Where there is injury...pardon

Where there is doubt, faith

Where there is despair...hope

Where there is darkness...light

Where there is sadness...joy

Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled...as to console

To be understood ...as to understand,

To be loved...as to love.

For it is in giving...that we receive,

It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned.

It is in dying...that we are born to eternal life.

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare what God has done for me."

Psalm 66:16

"Had I cherished evil in my heart the Lord would not have heard ."

Psalm 66:18

On the Fourth of July, we celebrate the freedoms that are foundational in our country. Yet, the greatest freedom granted to us is our God-given free will. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

1730 God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. . .Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4, 4, 3: PG 7/1, 983).

However, with free will and freedom comes risk and responsibility. The Catechism continues:

1731 Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.

1733 The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just.

1738 Freedom is exercised in relationships between human beings. Every human person, created in the image of God, has the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being. All owe to each other this duty of respect. The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in moral and religious matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of the human person. This right must be recognized and protected by civil authority within the limits of the common good and public order.

Consider the two paths that Pope Francis says free will creates: "This is what makes for the excitement and drama of human history, in which freedom, growth, salvation and love can blossom, or lead towards decadence and mutual destruction" (Laudato Si, 79).

Free will is an incredible gift and it is up to each of us to ensure that it is used for the betterment of all.

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 Gospel reading:

Jesus said [to his disciples],

"Go on your way...,

Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals,

and greet no one along the way."

Into whatever house you enter, first say,

‘Peace to this household.’"

Reflection:

Disciples have important work to do and we must get about our task. We are to be bearers of peace in a tumultuous, peace-starved world; people who announce God’s presence and concern to those who feel cut off from God and on their own. Our message, by our words and actions is, "The kingdom of God is at hand."

So we ask ourselves:

  • To whom am I being sent to bring Jesus’ peace-greeting?

  • What do I have to let go of – attitude, hesitations, fears, anxieties – so I can mirror the peace

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

I don’t want a moratorium on the death penalty, I want the abolition of it. I can’t understand why a county [USA] that is so committed to human rights doesn’t find the death penalty and obscenity.

----Bishop Desmond Tutu

This is a particularly vulnerable time for state and federal prisoners. 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:

  • Edward Davis #0100579 (On death row since 3/13/1992)
  • Kenneth Rouse #0353186 (3/25/1992)
  • Michael Reeves #0339314 (5/14/1992)

----Central Prison, P.O. 247 Phoenix, MD 21131

Please note: Central Prison is in Raleigh, NC., but for security purposes, mail to inmates is processed through a clearing house at the above address in Maryland.

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, OP:

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.PreacherExchanhe.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: http://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, OP

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.

St. Albert the Great Priory & Novitiate

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626


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