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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

33rd SUNDAY (A) November15, 2020

Proverbs 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Ps 128;
I Thess. 5: 1-6; Matthew 25: 14-30

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

Talk of the Second Coming makes us main-line church folk uncomfortable. "The End is Near!" – reads the sign carried by the street preacher we rush by. Hope he doesn’t stop me and ask if I’ve "been saved." What would I say? But it isn’t just those street preachers. In light of our national political tensions, extremes of climate, the pandemic, massive forest fires, etc, it can feel like the End is not too far off!

Talk of end times is in the New Testament as well. When we read New Testament texts filled with apocalyptical images, do we feel we are reading texts of a long-gone religion? They seem part of someone else’s traditional belief. But these last weeks of the liturgical year before Advent, while our scripture readings are not filled with exotic apocalyptic imagery, still they suggest we consider Jesus’ return – the Second Coming. What are we to think and say about it to people who seem so thoroughly modern and might find us quaint when we broach the subject?

The Second Coming is no minor event in our faith life. Though it hasn’t happened yet, the scriptural texts we will hear these next weeks nudge us to make it a conscious factor in our faith lives – and while we wait for it to happen, they urge us to consider the quality of our lives. The Parousia, these passages tell us, may be taking a while; but it will happen. When it does, how will it find us? While we may not live to see Jesus’ return, each of us is certain that our world will end. It will happen to all of us, no matter what our worldly stature. As the saying goes, "At the end of the game, the king and the pawn are put away in the same box." So, these "ending parables" remind us that we had better be investing our lives in what will stand up to the questions that will be put to us one day. We will be asked how we used the time we were given? The Second Coming calls us Christians to take our lives very seriously, so that we can meet the inevitable endings we will face with faith and courage.

A 70 year old man I had gotten to know during a recent parish retreat, told me about some medical texts he was to undergo to determine whether a large black spot they had discovered on his lung was cancer. He said, "Just pray I have the strength to take whatever comes." I told him I would. But I know that this devout man had spent his entire life being prepared "to take whatever comes." Like the first two servants in the gospel story, he had invested what was given him in "good investments": his prayer life, his family responsibilities, active membership in his parish community and service to neighbors in need.

Many years ago there was a popular police television series, "Hill Street Blues." The opening scene of each week’s episode would show the precinct squad room at the beginning of a shift. There would be the assembled police officers and the shift sergeant. He would give them their day’s assignments and then send them out with the same admonition, week after week, "Hey, be careful out there." The world can be a very challenging place, not only for police officers, but for Christians as well. Jesus’ parable is encouraging us to go out and get involved, invest ourselves, get into the thick of things. The final judgement, in this parable at least, seems to be based on how much confidence the servants had that their master would support their endeavors, applaud their risk and appreciate whatever returns they could bring in.

Behind this parable are two sureties: Jesus will go away; Jesus will return. We know when the first happened, now we are anticipating the second. No date is hinted at. As for now, we must do is attend to what we have before us; we must be faithful to the risk-taking spirit of Jesus who himself became fully engaged in our world. The third servant acted "out of fear" – and so held back, risking nothing. He thought he was playing it safe. Wrong! His master wanted his servants to go out, take chances and trust that he would appreciate their being just like him; for the master himself took a big chance when he went off and "entrusted his possessions" into the hands of his servants. Quite a risk-taker this master!

We live during these times when people have lost their health, loved ones, jobs, small businesses, etc. Unemployment is on the rise. I used to travel a lot to preach. Two weeks ago American Airlines cut over 100,000 flights for the upcoming holiday season. The other airlines have done similarly. The stock market’s future is very shaky. So, what was wrong with the cautious financial manager anyway? When the master returned, he did not find that the third servant had been dishonest and stolen what was entrusted to him. In today’s economy he would be called prudent and trustworthy. But we learn that his cautious approach comes out of fear, he is out to protect his hide from a master he knows to be a "demanding person."

The parable suggests that gospel living and loving require risk taking. We will have to think about how we can keep our religion from becoming a freeze-dried package put on a high shelf for safe keeping. When things improve, let’s take a chance and visit that grumpy relative; figure out a way to feed the hungry; take our concerns about neighborhood safety to the town meeting; tutor an at-risk teen; become a lector in church; visit and sit with a dying friend... well, you get the idea. Even under these lockdown conditions people are finding ways to be attentive disciples of Jesus: calling people who are alone in their homes; dropping off food for elderly, or sick neighbors, supporting health care worker with cards, snacks and cheers. How much talent do I think has been left with me and how can I invest it? We don’t have to be successful, as much as faithful and trusting in the One who is gone, but coming back.

The first reading from Proverbs speaks to our current conditions. It describes a woman who uses her gifts, not only within the comparative safety of her own home, but in the market place as well. Last week’s first reading was about Lady Wisdom. Today we see Wisdom manifested in the life of this "worthy wife." For her time, she is a most unusual woman. She is not just a good wife, appreciated by her family at home; but she also has fame at the city gates. Her husband receives the benefit of her practical gifts. But so do the others, for "she reaches out her hands to the poor and extends her arms to the needy." Her practical gifts are the fruit of Wisdom.

There is an everyday quality to her holiness. She is a person who "fears the Lord," i.e. holds God in reverence. But the author of Proverbs does not depict her "holy acts" as taking place in isolation, or in hours of prayer spent in the Temple. Instead, this good woman practices a worldly religion. She applies her talents to her home; but she also practices works of kindness beyond the walls of her home. Our culture shines a spotlight on pencil-thin models and young men with "six pack abs." But the author reminds us that exterior looks are deceptive, they will pass. We don’t know what this worthy and worldly wife looks like; but we do see her interior appearance. She is reverent before God, industrious at home and kind to the needy. No wonder her works earn her "praise at the city gates."

(C.f Justice Bulletin Board below for further reflections on the Proverbs reading)

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

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/111520.cfm

QUOTABLE

Teach your children

what we have taught our children—

that the earth is our mother.

Whatever befalls the earth

befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.

If [people] spit upon the ground,

they spit upon themselves.

This we know

the earth does not belong to us:

we belong to the earth.

This we know.

All things are connected

like the blood which unites one family.

All things are connected.

Whatever befalls the earth

befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.

We did not weave the web of life;

We are merely a strand in it.

Whatever we do to the web,

we do it ourselves.

Chief Seattle, quoted in EARTH PRAYERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD, ed. by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon (Harper: San Francisco, 1991).

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"He reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy."

Proverbs 31:20

"It is probably better to see in this passage more than a picture of the perfect wife," writes Lawrence E. Boadt, CSP, in The Collegeville Bible Commentary:OT (Liturgical, 1992). Boadt continues, "She is wisdom in action--the model of self-control, prudence, understanding, and just behavior. . .Rather than being just another passage describing the submissive wife in the ancient world, it reveals the remarkably even-handed approach of Proverbs that recognizes wisdom where it is found--in men and women alike" (673-674). And one thing that the wise and ideal human person embodies is to remember to uplift the poor and disadvantaged. After all, the very first line in the Book of Wisdom 1:1 is "Love Justice."

As John E. Rybolt, CM, writes in the same resource, "Love justice, for this leads to wisdom. . .As one seeks to know and then to live in accord with God’s justice, one begins to imitate in personal activity the very life of God" (703). For the laity living a life of faith today, this means that helping uplift the poor is not something to do when you have the time. Rather, working to create a more just world should permeate everything in your sphere of influence.

With the precautions in place because of the pandemic, one could use this as an excuse not to get involved in the work of justice. However, you can use your time to learn more about unjust issues or a single unjust issue that God is pressing upon your heart. You can write letters on behalf of those suffering an injustice. You can be pro-active by financially supporting one of the many outreach ministries here at Cathedral. Take, for example, the Door Fund Ministry.

Begun in 2002, the Door Ministry helps people with past due rents and eviction notices, a crisis now with so many people out of work. We also use the funds for various other emergency aid as it arises and to sponsor Support Circles for those struggling to get out of homelessness.

You can donate on-line at the Cathedral website or mail a check to office. Checks should be made out to HNOJ and designated for the DOOR FUND. If you would like to consider participating in this ministry, contact Barbara Quinby at: socialconcern@hnojnc.org

Be a hand to the poor and an arm to the needy--the wisdom way.

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 told this parable to his disciples:

"A man was going on a journey He called in his servants and handed his funds over to them according to each person’s abilities.....

After a long absence, the master of those servants came home and settled accounts with them."

Reflection:

Discipleship isn’t a holding back for fear of making a mistake, or looking like a fool. Judging from today’s parable, it requires a spirit of risk and boldness, sometimes in big matters, but mostly in small daily occurrences.  Whatever the "risky business" we use in our service of the Lord, we are encouraged in today’s parable by a Master who trusts his servants to "give it a try" – so that when he returns we will hear him call us "good and faithful servants."  

So we ask ourselves:

  • Do I treat my faith as something fragile, keeping it close and protected as if it will break if brought out into the open?
  • In my daily life, how venturesome before others am I with my faith?

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:

  • William Bowie #0039569 (On death row since 2/5/1993)
  • Rayford Burke #0057308 (4/1/1993)
  • John M Burr #0058316 (4/21/1993)

----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 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.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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