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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

25th SUNDAY (A) September20, 2020

Isaiah 55: 6-9; Psalm 145; Philippians 1: 20c-24, 27a;
Matthew 20: 1-16

By: Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

As an itinerant preacher I get to see a lot of towns and cities around the country. There are features that separate one from another and make them distinct –skylines, size, rivers, bays, foliage, racial and economic separations, etc. Other features are found in all of them – chain stores, restaurants, banks, churches, stadiums, traffic signals, etc. No matter what part of the country I travel, these population centers have something else in common – the sight of day laborers along the side streets and at the entrances to malls. In the cities the locals usually know where to find these workers who line up and hope for a day’s work.

People hire them for handy work around their homes, construction jobs, assembly lines, etc. These pandemic days we also learn they work in crowded and unsafe packing plants and on farms without adequate protection against the virus. While their lives are desperate, their families are in need, what other choices do they have? – they would argue. The crack down on immigrants has made the situation of these laborers more precarious; but still, as you drive into a town, there they are, in small clumps waiting for someone to drive up and hire them.

You don’t have to be a day laborer to have financial worries. The pandemic has caused high unemployment, the collapse of small family-owned businesses and the loss of homes. When you are on the low end of the pay scale you can’t afford to lose even a day of work, a day’s pay. It might make the difference between getting a necessary prescription filled on time, having a medical procedure done – or not. These days financial insecurity has even reached the middle of the scale as people face mortgage crises, job loses and rising prices. How many people in the northern states are worried about the approach of winter and whether or not they will be able to pay for sufficient heating fuel for their homes? Or, whether they will even have a home!

Multiply these fears about job security by 100 and you get some sense of what it must have been like to be a day laborer in Jesus’ time. Poverty was severe, over 95% of the people were desperately poor and on the verge of starvation. For many, a day’s wage was the difference between having something to eat – and not. Each morning the day laborers would have had that empty feeling, the wave of anxiety, race through them as they pondered, "Suppose I don’t get work today? How will I feed the kids?" Even the youngest and physically fit, the ones most likely to get work, would know this fear. They would be the ones chosen first – if there were work. But suppose there were no work, even the most likely to get hired, would not.

Multiply and compound these fears by still another 100 if you were injured or disabled, elderly, a widow with children, a child laborer. You wouldn’t be the first hired, or even the second or third – others would be more likely to get work for the day. But you would still need a day’s pay to live on and to feed your family. A day’s pay could make the difference between eating and going hungry; living and dying. Wouldn’t you rather be one of those who worked a whole day, and not among those who stood around, waiting and despairing, hoping to get hired – with your hopes sinking as the day wore on? Even if you got hired later in the day, what good would that do since you would receive less than a day’s pay, less than what you needed for your family?

The landowner was accustomed to hiring harvest workers. He would know all this from experience. Some employers don’t notice their employees’ needs. But this parable tells of a different kind of employer. This one noticed and cared for those he saw who needed work. And he was extravagant!

The parable certainly rubs most of us the wrong way. We probably equate ourselves with people in the first situation, who were hired first. We have worked hard, the way we have been taught by our hard working parents and grandparents. And more. We who live up to the training and sense of justice we were taught by our forebears apply them to God. We are good people who have worked hard, and earned a right to God’s payment, we reason. That’s what is just, isn’t it?

We need to pause here and remind ourselves: God knows everything we have said, thought and done. Do we really want a strict judgment and payment system for all that? We’d be infinitely better off taking what is being offered by the One who is self-described as "Generous."

This is a parable and it is not so much about us and what we deserve, as it is about God! It’s about the reign of God and that means the accounting system is like nothing we have every experienced in our hard-working lives. This parable and others, is about a big and welcoming God, who doesn’t make us feel like 2nd class, or inferior servants. We have heard enough parables to draw some conclusions about God: our God takes outsiders and makes them insiders; our God doesn’t treat us according to our standards, but according to God’s. And the measuring rod God uses is spelled out in today’s parable – Generosity.

Each of us needs forgiveness and it is generously given us; whether we thought we deserved it, or not. During these pandemic days we also need courage, comfort, perseverance and hope. As we hear today, the one in charge wants to be generous, beyond what we think we should receive. We may not feel we have done enough for God to earn a favorable hearing; that we don’t deserve God’s attention. That’s what we might say, but God says, "Nonsense, come right in, you are welcome. I am feeling generous!"

A question: then: what does God require from us? Well, if we believe in the God of this parable, who welcomes us and is so generous, then we have to reflect this generosity in our lives. We have to stop keeping strict accounts. We must stop measuring people by how much they have; how educated they are; how long they have been coming to our church; how long they have been in our country; how "worthy" we think they are; whether they have earned our forgiveness, etc. We need to put on the eyeglasses today’s parable provides and see ourselves and others as God sees us – with generosity.

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

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/092020.cfm

 

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

 

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.

Psalm 145:8

September 19-26 is Campaign Nonviolence NC Week. CNV- NC is part of a national movement to mainstream nonviolence as it works for a new culture of nonviolence free from war, poverty, racism, and environmental destruction.

What is nonviolence? Gandhi writes, "Nonviolence means avoiding injury to anything on earth in thought, word or deed." Walter Wink, in his book, Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way (Fortress, 2003), writes, "Instead of the two options ingrained in us by millions of years of unreflective, brute response to threats--fight or flight--with Jesus a way emerges by which evil can be opposed without being mirrored." Wink calls this Jesus’ "Third Way." Jesus, Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. embraced this philosophy of nonviolence in the actions of their lives in order "to talk about a new way of life, a new spiritual path, a new methodology for social, political change, and a new way to organize through grassroots movements as the best hope for humanity" (https://paceebene.org/whynonviolence ).

Pace e Bene, the organization that created the Campaign Nonviolence national movement, writes "Nonviolence is a force for transformation, justice, and the well-being of all that is neither violent nor passive. It is a powerful method for challenging and overcoming violence without using violence People around the world are using active nonviolence in grassroots nonviolent movements to build more democratic societies, to champion human rights, to challenge racism and sexism, to struggle for economic justice, and to safeguard the planet. ?Recent quantitative research has demonstrated that nonviolent strategies are twice as effective as violent ones."

You are invited to participate in CNV NC events this week.

On Monday, Sept. 21, join our webinar "Lift Your Voice and Your Vote for the Planet" as we emphasize how to help Mother Earth nonviolently. Register at: https://www.facebook.com/CampaignNC

On the Global Day of Climate Action, Friday. Sept. 25, come pray with us as we display Parachutes for the Planet in four different locations in Raleigh. Contact socialconcern@hnojnc.org for more information.

Let us live nonviolence as Jesus teaches--gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.

 

----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:

My friend...what if I wish to give this last one the same as you?

Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?

Are you envious because I am generous?

Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.

Reflection:

Each of us stands in need before God. Some are looking for forgiveness; others for healing from past injuries. During these pandemic days some may need courage, perseverance, hope, or relief. We are like the day laborers, we stand in need and hope we are chosen. The One in charge has noticed us and wants to be generous, beyond what we think we should receive. Our best response to God’s generosity is gratitude and the desire to be generous to others in similar need.

So we ask ourselves:

  • How aware am I of God’s generosity to me in my life?

  • Can I name some gifts I have received from God that I am sure I didn’t earn or deserve?

  • To whom must I be as generous?

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:

  • Mario Phillips #0604251 (On death row since 10/17/2007)
  • James R. Little #0846840 (11/21/2008)
  • Michael Sherrill #0366770 (2/23/2009)

----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.

1. You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com http://www.PreacherExchange.comand clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

2. "Homilías Domincales" —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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