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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

2nd SUNDAY OF EASTER (B) April 11, 2021

(Divine Mercy Sunday)

Acts 4: 32-35; Psalm 118; I John 5: 1-6; John 20: 19-31

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

PRE-NOTE: Welcome to the latest email recipients of "First Impressions," the retreatants of St. Anselm Parish in San Anselmo, CA.



Today we celebrate the heart of our Christian faith: which begins and has its source in the resurrection. No need to come to church on Sunday, pray, love our neighbor, or spend our time focusing on Christ, if he simply was a great religious teacher who lives in our memories with fond affection and in images framed on our walls. If that’s all he was, he is dead and we can go about our lives on our own.

But if Christ is alive in God and in us humans, then what John tells us in our second reading is true: "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God…." Christ is alive and in him we are born to a new life as children of God. Therefore, we live with hope that God is faithful and, in Christ, loves us. In Christ’s resurrection we have assurance that neither pain nor death can separate us from God’s love. As God was with Christ, so God will be there for us in whatever deaths we experience. Beginning now, Christ also shares his resurrected life with us for all eternity. Because of the resurrected Christ we can have total trust in God’s love for us. We are born again as God’s children – as the First Letter of John tells us today.

On Good Friday we saw kindness, compassion and love nailed to the cross. But today we celebrate that goodness is alive and living in and among us. Christ rose, so now we have undying love in our hearts and we can make full allegiance to Christ. What would that look like? If our lives are transformed in the resurrection and Christ lives in us, we can not ignore the inequalities in our world – its racism, selfish use of resources, violation of the innocent, buildup of weaponry, etc.

All of Jesus’ disciples fled, or denied him, when he needed them the most. When he came to his disciples huddled behind locked doors his first words to them were words of forgiveness and reconciliation, "Peace be with you." Forgiveness was not only offered to those disciples. It is also offered to each of us, behind whatever doors we have locked ourselves, spiritually, emotionally or physically. We are forgiven sinners and now free to live joyful lives. Through his Spirit we not only to look back to a memory of him, but experience him with us now, enabling us to do what he did: forgive others as we have been forgiven.

People say the resurrection could not have possibly happened: that it was made up, or the result of the disciples’ heightened grief and disappointment which came when Jesus was executed and their dreams shattered. But accounts like today’s gospel say otherwise. Something real happened to those huddled disciples. They reported that their master appeared to them. They recognized him, saw his wounds and heard him speak to them. Our faith is based on their witness and so we believe there is more than just what we can see and touch in this world. We believe Christ is risen, as John tells us today, our faith "conquers the world."

Our first reading from Acts paints an idealistic picture of the early Christian community. We are told that they were of one heart and mind: they shared their possessions and had "everything in common." Really? More – there was "no needy person among them." Really? Luke’s description in Acts is of an idealized community – all peace and harmony. In his depiction of the early church Luke seems to be illustrating Jesus’ teachings for those who follow him. Nevertheless, as idealized as the depiction of the early church is, we get the point, don’t we? It is about a community of believers who care and make personal sacrifices for one another. We may not go as far as mortgaging our homes to help the needy among us, but do the needs of those around us move us to reach deeper into our pockets, or give our spare time and energies to serve others, as Jesus so vividly taught?

The gospel gives another perspective on the early church. They were hiding in fear. That sounds real, doesn’t it? Maybe they were more akin to us, who also are made fearful by forces we cannot control. Lock the doors and lay low!

In light of the all-too-human disciples Jesus’ first word to them is "peace." How many parts of our modern church cause us to be restless and fearful because of scandals, dishonest administrators, diminishing numbers and income, divisiveness and the almost-absence of the young generation? His word of peace to his disciples is quickly followed by the gift of his breath, the Holy Spirit and then the command to forgive. Forgiveness, the first step in healing a wounded church and world. Thomas was the first who needed healing and forgiveness from the community whose witness he did not believe: a dissenter among the first believers. That sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Thomas had serious issues with the others, but at least he didn’t walk out. Healing is possible, even in a broken church. Thomas stays and the community continues to accept him. So, he is present when Jesus appears. Jesus addresses him urging him to believe. The church did not expel Thomas and in their company he experienced the risen Christ for himself. Doesn’t Thomas’ story challenge us? Often we are too quick to condemn the different thinkers among us and easily dismiss those whose lives aren’t like ours.

As I travel from parish to parish preaching I noticed a growing divide between "liberals" and "conservatives." We are quick to pass judgment, exclude and turn a deaf ear towards those different from us. We tend to talk among our own group, but not reach out and listen to the other. Divisions do nothing good for the church.

There is something about staying together and not walking out. It was to a gathered community that the risen Christ came and it was with them that Thomas was forgiven and given peace. Thomas was willing to admit she was wrong and it was Jesus who made sure he was welcome. As a result we have the inspired and very memorable words Thomas uttered before the risen Christ. Words which inspire, form and express our faith as well: "My Lord and my God."

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

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/041121.cfm

 

QUOTABLE

Perhaps my discomfort with Easter as it is currently celebrated in most churches is that it is such a "churchy" event. We gather to hear about "eternal life" but have no expectations about taking that message into the world in which we live.

I guess it is safer to stay in the church and celebrate the eschatological possibility of life eternal. What would happen to our Easter pulpits if we simply sought to roll the stone away so that people could confront the forces of death in their own lives?

----Keith Russell, in "The Living Pulpit" January-March, 1998, page 21.

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"God’s mercy endures forever."

Psalm 118: 2,3,4

I find myself pondering which action is more likely for God to take: justice or mercy? So, I do the one thing that I have done from childhood--I look it up. Starting with the Encyclopaedia Judaica, I find this:

In the thirteen attributes by which God self-manifests, the ancient rabbis point to the positive interaction of mercy and justice in God’s relation to the world. Both of them are the bases of the covenant between God and the Israelites and neither of them predominates God’s attitude toward them. God’s name "Elohim" designates justice and "YHWH" designates mercy. The presence of both of these names in Genesis 2:4 (written as "Lord God" in many Bibles) signifies that mercy and justice were both necessary in order to make creation possible. Justice is so consistently paired with "mercy" or "grace," that one of the words for justice, "zedekah," has come to mean almost exclusively "charity" or "works of love."

This last point is especially interesting as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

2447 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.

To give alms to the poor is to do justice. St. Ambrose of Milan elaborates, "It is not from your own possessions that you are bestowing alms on the poor, you are but restoring to them what is theirs by right. For what was given to everyone for the use of all, you have taken for your exclusive use. The earth belongs not to the rich, but to everyone. Thus, far from giving lavishly, you are but paying part of your debt."

Given that both God's Son and God’s Church have expressed the preferential option for the poor, God’s justice is intimately bound up in mercy as compassionate equity. To act in this way is to imitate God, so that, at the end of time, justice and mercy are one and the same,

---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 Thomas]

"Have you come to believe because you have seen me?

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Reflection:

Most of us Catholics were baptized as infants and our faith is initially based on the words and example of others. Like Thomas we are asked to put our faith in other believers who have been our guides. Also, like Thomas, each of us comes to our own personal experience of Jesus’ resurrection.

So we ask ourselves:

  • When have I had the most doubts about the living presence of Christ?
  • Where and how do I expect to meet the risen Lord in this life?

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 Brown #0051026 (On death row since 8/11/2000)
  • Timothy White #0434845 (8/31/2000)
  • Michael Holmes #0189289 (9/8/2000)

----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: http://www.PreacherExchange.com - 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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