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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

14th SUNDAY (A) July 5, 2020

Zechariah 9: 9-10; Psalm 145; Romans 8: 9, 11-13; Matthew 11: 25-30

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

 

SO SORRY!  Our email list was moved to a new server last week and one of the settings was incorrect. This caused you to receive dozens of “First Impressions” emails asking if you wanted to continue, or unsubscribe.  Glad you stayed and sorry for the hassle.  Thanks for quickly letting us know. The problem has been corrected and hopefully everything runs smoothly from here on out with the new mail server.  What kind of people do things like that!


What a painful, eye-opening time to celebrate our country’s independence – when all over the land we hear voices that tell us, while some of us feel free, so many others have been severely limited and victimized by racism. I heard an African American mother tell how she had to explain to her two boys how to behave on the streets; what to say if are stopped by the police. She said, "They are excellent students, good kids, with plans for college. Yet, each time they go out wearing a hoodie, I’m afraid they might return dead. This is more than I expected to have to endure when they were born. Back then, I was a happy, new mother, but I should have known better. I suffered racist taunts growing up, but I thought our struggles during the civil rights movement would have cleared the air for my kids. But it hasn’t – just watch the evening news." Violence and distress mark these days. Things have to change and people are rightly impatient for that change to happen.

Zechariah and Jesus were no less distressed by the world in which they lived. The prophet Zechariah offers an apocalyptic vision, looking and hoping for a future time when conflict will end and those faithful to God will, "Rejoice heartily." The savior will come to Jerusalem, not as a victorious general riding on a warhorse into the city, but a gentle leader riding a donkey. Zechariah envisions a king who will banish the instruments of war, chariots, warhorses and bow. The king will declare peace for all the nations, "from the River [Euphrates] to the ends of the Earth."

Zechariah was posting what people today yearn for amid the turmoil; leadership not by might and forceful suppression, but by the virtue of meekness. Zechariah is calling his contemporaries not to look to oppressive leaders, but to those who will bring peace. The coming king, in the prophet’s vision, will govern the oppressed and fallen by means of peacemaking, reconciliation and gentleness. In this ruler people will realize God has come to their aid. And more: this ruler will reveal the kind of God the people have, a God who seeks reconciliation and peace among all peoples. The face of the one God sends will reveal the face of God.

Our Responsorial Psalm today is from Psalm 145, and in it we acknowledge and turn to the God Zechariah proclaims, "I will praise your name for ever my King and my God."

These days it doesn’t feel like much has changed from the distress-filled days of Zechariah; not with violent protests and military troops on our streets. We pray our Responsorial Psalm today in gratitude for the people of peace whom God has given us, voices of awareness and reconciliation. Like the prophet they keep us focused on God’s ways as we pray in the words of the Psalm, "The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness." Stirred by our Psalm we pray, "O God, fill us with your Spirit, make us merciful, filled with great kindness, like you, as we strive to be your instruments of peace in our troubled world."

When all around us seems to be distress and disorder, we need help if we are to be the peaceful face of God in the world. God has seen our need and sent us the one Zechariah promised, who entered Jerusalem on a donkey and proclaimed "peace to the nations." Jesus does not bang us on our heads with new laws and discipline. He offers peace to those who come to him. He doesn’t dictate to us from afar, but offers to be our yoke mate. Farm beasts were yoked in pairs to increase their plowing ability.

That is the image Jesus gave his contemporaries and us: we disciples are not on our own to face present and future challenges to his ways of peace. He invites us to draw close to him, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me." The ground is hard and rocky, we need strength and perseverance if we are to plow and plant seeds of peace in our world – and that "world" can be as close as our own family members and neighbors. Staying "yoked" to Christ can help us overcome the anxiety caused by the pandemic and social unrest that marks our days and promises to alter our futures.

These days are testing us in many ways, but in some they are not unique. "Learn from me" – throughout our Christian lives Jesus invites us to follow his way of meekness: loving, serving and forgiving. He assures us that we are not left on our own to follow his teachings and live his life. He showed the face of a loving God to the world and, yoked to him, we can do the same. Being a Christian demands everything we have to live as Jesus lived and in his spirit we are united to him so that we can follow his law of love.

Meekness seems like a useless and impossible virtue in our modern world with all its dangerous weapons and aggressions. But the gospel today invites us to try practicing meekness (we "practice" because we will never get it perfect) by: disarming our own hearts; not returning anger against anger; using our personal authority to stand with the powerless and those deprived of a chance for a full life.

Jesus was "meek and humble of heart" because he chose to be that way. He could have used power to gain a following, to conquer his opponents and overwhelm the towns that rejected him. Instead he used his power to stay committed to

God and God’s ways and to share the life of the "little ones" who accepted him. They had suffered at the hands of the powers of the world, and Jesus will too. They only had God as their support and future and Jesus’ own faith was the assurance to them that their trust in God was not misplaced.

P.S. This is a particularly rough time for prisoners. Would you consider dropping a card to a death row inmate? Each week we post names of 3 inmates on North Carolina’s death row. See below for this week’s names.

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

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/070520.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"If only the Spirit of God dwells in you."

Romans 8: 9

"If only" is an expression that makes me wonder what would preclude the Spirit’s indwelling. I turned to The Collegeville Pastoral Dictionary of Biblical Theology in order to understand Paul’s thinking in this passage. They write, "For Paul the Spirit-versus-flesh contrast is not a matter of warring aspects of the human person but of trying to live on one’s own power as opposed to living out a graced relationship with God. The first way issues only in ‘works of the flesh’ while the second bears the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ (Gal. 5:16-25). Christian morality is a matter of ‘walking in the Spirit,’ living out that new covenant relationship" (951). In other words, while flesh has weakened us with violence and death, spirit empowers us for life and justice.

Recently, Cardinal Peter Turkson was listening to a webinar on racism being produced by Georgetown University. At the end of the webinar, he stated that there are two original sins in Genesis--the sin of disobedience of Adam and Eve and the sin of fratricide, an action (law) of the flesh, when Cain kills his brother Abel. In racism, that sin of fratricide continues today. We preclude the Spirit’s indwelling if we take part in racism or look the other way when we see it happening as we are then living according to the flesh.

To enable God’s indwelling, we must recognize that the law of the spirit is a different value system and way of life. Where to begin, especially with the issue of racism? First, begin in prayer and introspection to examine one’s own encounters with people of other ethnic origins. Then do some learning on the topic. Below are some suggestions by Fr. James Martin:

"Racial Justice and the Catholic Church," by Fr. Bryan Massingale

"No Ashes in the Fire," by Darnell Elmore

"How the U.S. Church Can Confront the Legacy of Slavery," by Olga Segura for America Magazine 10/14/19

"The Assumptions of White Privilege and What We Can Do about It," by Fr. Bryan Massingale for NCR Online 6/1/20

Finally, invite the Holy Spirit to present you with a situation where you can extend the fruits of the Spirit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control--to someone of a different ethnicity. Let your life be one of love and justice. "If only" is up to you.

---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:

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened ,

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me....

For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.

Reflection:

Shall we accept the yoke Jesus is offering? One thing we sense from Jesus is that his yoke is not meant to be oppressive. St. Paul says it will lead us to freedom. When we accept Jesus’ yoke we also receive him as our full-time helper, our "yoke partner." Which explains how Christians were able to accomplish enormously difficult and seeming impossible tasks, even martyrdom, in Jesus’ name.

So we ask ourselves:

  • What parts of my life would I identify as carrying the "yoke of Jesus?"
  • How do I experience Jesus helping me carry that yoke?

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:

  • Paul A. Brown #0051026 (On death row since 8/11/00)
  • Timothy L. White #0434845 (8/31/00)
  • Michael Holmes #0189289 (9/8/00)

----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.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


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