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“FIRST IMPRESSIONS”
1st SUNDAY OF LENT February 21, 2021
Genesis 9: 8-15; Psalm 25; I Peter 3: 18-22; Mark 1: 12-15

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Dear Preachers:

 

 LENT

 I

   2021

On the first night of a parish retreat I noticed the arrival of a group of about eight young adults; one couple had an infant in arms. With them were some older members of the parish, the “stalwarts.” I was struck by the energy of the group, their enthusiasm and involvement in our prayer service and the obvious bonds among them—maybe not so much of friendship, but community. I saw them after the service, introduced myself and asked if they were neighbors, co-workers, or a special group in the parish. One young woman responded, “We’re the catechumens.” That brief response explained a lot: their enthusiasm, sense of community and their attendance at a shared weeknight prayer service. I wished their enthusiasm would rub off on the rest of us “cradle Catholics.”

That group of catechumens comes to mind this Sunday, the first Sunday in Lent. They remind and call us to enter more fully into our Lenten journey. While Lent is about the catechumens preparing for baptism, it is also about those of us who have been around for a while and have gotten into a rut, or have tried a few diversionary paths. This new season is a chance for us to be refreshed in faith; an opportunity to think about the renewal of our baptismal commitment we will profess at the Easter Vigil – whether in person, or live-streamed. We fix our eyes on that coming moment of personal and communal renewal. During Lent we do what we can to make that renewal one of total commitment; a moment when we do our best to make one big “Yes” to the life of the Spirit of Jesus within us. This Lent we pray for the enthusiasm of those catechumens and ask for a sense of rediscovery in our faith, as if we were entering it for the first time.

During this Pandemic people say they feel God has deserted them. So much sickness, so many deaths, such pain! “Where is God?”, they ask. When will God come to help us? Doesn’t God care for us? During Lent we might pray for a refreshed faith in the God of the Genesis passage. The story tells of God’s covenant with Noah. It takes place right after the Flood. The writer is tracing the covenant between God and Israel, but notice that “every living creature” is included. God is the God of all creation and despite any future sin on our part, or God’s seeming-indifference, God will not go back on the covenant God has made with us. Be assured, the passage reminds us, God is faithful.

The Genesis passage has the famous story of the rainbow. The rainbow is not to serve as a reminder to us of God’s covenant; but it is a sign to God “to recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings....” No matter how far adrift we go; no matter that we might forget God, or feel that God has forgotten us, the author of Genesis says, God will never forget us. This first Sunday of Lent begins with a strong reminder that God has bound God’s self to an everlasting relationship with us and will never let go. Such a lover-God is a strong attraction to us this Lent, which has been intensified by the pandemic’s shadow of death. We have nothing to fear from this God, as we turn away from other gods presented to us in modern life and return to the everlasting God who has made a covenant with “every living creature.”

The first Sunday of Lent always begins with Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Matthew, Mark and Luke each have their own take on the story. This liturgical year we have Mark’s account. It is brief and leaves out the details told by Matthew and Luke. The preacher should avoid the temptation to “fill in the blanks” by going to the other gospel accounts for more details about the temptations. We need to respect Mark’s narrative and listen to what he has to say to us as we begin our Lenten desert journey.

Mark almost dismisses Jesus’ temptation. He covers it in a terse line, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.” That’s it! We are reminded of what John the Baptist said just a few verses earlier. He promised, “After me will come one more powerful than I...”(1:7). Well, Mark’s temptation account certainly shows how powerful Jesus is. As we enter this Lent we may feel our own resolve to change is wishy-washy, that we have tried so many times before and failed. Perhaps we are thinking, “It’s another Lent, here we go again.” We lack the catechumens’ enthusiasm, we have been around the block more than a few times! How do we make this Lent a fresh experience? How do we gather the spiritual desire and energy to change? How will we even know the areas in us where change is necessary?

After John spoke about the “one more powerful than I,” he said, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” There’s the source of our renewal; there’s the One who can fill us with the desire to change and make that change possible. Jesus will baptize us anew with his Spirit this Lent to make our wizened spirits new again. Lent is truly a season of hope in which we discover that what is impossible for us, is possible for God.

In the desert Israel was tested and gave into temptation. Just as Israel spent forty years in the desert, now Jesus spends forty days there. Like Israel he is tempted, but does not give in. Mark tells us that there were wild beasts with Jesus in the desert. For other humans that would be a scary place to be; but in Jesus, God is reconciling humans and nature. The desert losses its hostile qualities. With Jesus there it is a peaceable kingdom – the messiah has reconciled humans and “wild beasts.” Lent provides an opportunity to confront the “wild beasts” of our lives. Think here of the aggression, competition, and insatiable desires that have control over us and our nation. They are wild beasts, un-tamable. But they do not have to have dominion over us, for we have been baptized into Jesus, the powerful One, who overcomes the tests in the desert and makes peace between opposing forces.

We are also told that in this place of testing and hostile forces, there were also ministering “angels.” We pass through many periods of testing in our lives, times when our very identity as Christians is seriously challenged. Powerful but subtle forces pull us at us and we can feel solitary in our struggle against them. But there are “angels” ministering to us in the deserts of our lives: when an addiction seems impossible to break and we find help in a group; when we are distraught over the death of a loved one and other, widowed friends, share their stories and give us courage; when we are laid up in bed with a broken leg, or bad back and friends come during these social-distancing day to drop off food at our front door; when our faith is dry and we pray wondering why we bother, but the prayer and faith of other worshipers give us hope; when we want to be a peacemaker, live a simpler life, or choose the path of service and we hear nothing but the voices of nay-sayers, and then the lives of the saints and stories of contemporary Christians are our “angels” in the wilderness, ministering to us, enabling us to be faithful to the call we hear and are trying to live out. Other “angels” may not be as tangible, but nevertheless comfort us in the desert. Our ideals and dreams, (our “angels”?) if we stay with them, lift us up and sustain us through the difficult, testing times.

Deserts – what are they for us? In the desert of the Jews, as they faced temptations and even betrayed God, God stayed with them and led them out. Genesis reminds us that when we see the sign, the rainbow, we are assured that God is faithful to the covenant God made with all living beings. God makes sure that we do not have to pass through our deserts alone and sustains us in a variety of “angelic” ways .

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
Https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/022121.cfm

QUOTABLE

In the railroad station in Calcutta there is a large sign – in Hindi, Bengali, and English – which reads:

SEVEN SOCIAL SINS

POLITICS WITHOUT PRINCIPLES
WEALTH WITHOUT WORK
COMMERCE WITHOUT MORALITY
EDUCATION WITHOUT CHARACTER
PLEASURE WITHOUT CONSCIENCE
SCIENCE WITHOUT HUMANITY
WORSHIP WITHOUT SACRIFICE
MAHATMA GANDHI

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

“Remember that your compassion, O Lord, and your love are from of old.”
Psalm 25: 6

Remembering has a very important role in the Bible and is used, depending on your Bible translation, from 148 to 168 times. In both testaments, the process of remembering is active, personal, and rooted in relationship. In today’s scripture passage, God is asked to remember compassion and love in order to act with these qualities and make them effective in God’s dealings with human beings. We should also remember the compassion and love that is rooted in us as children of God. Through the traditions of prayer, fasting and almsgiving of Lent, we remember.

Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, former chairman of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offers “10 Things to Remember for Lent” and it is the ninth and tenth one that I will highlight today:
9. Reach out in charity. As we experience weakness and suffering during Lent, we should be renewed in our compassion for those who are hungry, suffering or otherwise in need. The third part of the Lenten formula is almsgiving. It’s about more than throwing a few extra dollars in the collection plate; it’s about reaching out to others and helping them without question as a way of sharing the experience of God’s unconditional love.
10. Learn to love like Christ. Giving of ourselves in the midst of our suffering and self-denial brings us closer to loving like Christ, who suffered and poured himself out unconditionally on the cross for all of us. Lent is a journey through the desert to the foot of the cross on Good Friday, as we seek him out, ask his help, join in his suffering, and learn to love like him."

I have found one of the best ways to remember the compassion and love of God, is to form a relationship with those who are struggling in life by giving of my time, talent, and funds and by thinking with my heart as to how I can help build a more just world. We have many opportunities here at Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral to help in your “remembering.” Check out www.raleighcathedral.org > parish > social justice and enrich your journey with Jesus today.

Happy remembering!

-----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 Genesis reading:

God said to Noah...

“See, I am now establishing my covenant with you
and with your descendants after you
and with every living creature that was with you:
all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals
that were with you and came out of the ark.”

Reflection:

The covenant God made with Noah and his descendants states that God wants to continue working with us to care for what God has created. God’s good purpose not only includes humans and their care, but also all of the natural world which the Book of Genesis tells us, God called “good.” What God calls good we must also treasure and protect.

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:

  • Henry Wallace #0422350 (On death row since 1/29/1997)

  • Terrence Taylor #0539901 (2/18/1997)

  • Johnny Parker #0311966 (3/24/1997)

----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. “Homilias 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 “Homilias 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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