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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

16th SUNDAY (A) JULY 19, 2020

Wisdom 12: 13, 16-19; Psalm 86; Rom 8: 26-27; Matthew 13: 24-30

By: Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Friends:

I am back! Hat in hand. These days have been difficult for so many. I know many of you are under severe financial stress. We here at the priory are doing what most of you are doing – staying in place. And like you, our resources have suffered.

We are expecting five novices to join us in August to begin their Dominican studies and preparation for the priesthood. Would you like to support them and help us prepare for their arrival?

If so, send tax deductible checks to:

Dominican Friars of Irving

3150 Vince Hagan Dr.

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

 

Or: For an online donation go to:

https://www.preacherexchange.com/donations.htm

We pray for our benefactors daily and will do that for you.

Thank you.

Fr Jude



Sometimes even so-called experts and people who should know better can’t predict how things are going to turn out. An expert evaluating a potential football coach said of him, "He possesses minimal football knowledge. Lacks motivation." He was talking about Vince Lombardi, who, though he "lacked motivation," was the successful football coach quoted for saying, "Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing." Eighteen publishers turned down a story about a seagull written by Richard Bach. "Jonathan Livingston Sea Gull" finally got published in 1970. In five years it sold more than 7 million copies in the U.S. alone. A music teacher told Enrico Caruso’s parents that he had "no voice at all." As they say, "Ya just never know."

A friend’s father has a 1,200 acre farm. Reflecting on today’s parable she said, "I left my family’s farm when I went away to school. On a recent visit, early in the growing season, I looked at my father’s just-sprouting wheat fields and I realized I couldn’t tell the weeds from the wheat. When they are sprouting, they look identical to one another – until they ripen!" That’s what the owner in the parable cautions, "Don’t act too quickly. Don’t jump to conclusions. Ya’ just never know."

Summer is a great baseball time. But this summer, because of the pandemic, the baseball season is starting very late and will probably have only 60 games – greatly reduced from the usual 162-game season. They will play to empty seats – no cheering, or booing fans. Still, when the season begins this weekend, we will be able to watch our favorite team on tv. If we happen to come in after the game has started, the first thing we will probably ask is, "Who’s winning?" We don’t ask, "Who’s losing?"

As much as we love the game, if our team loses, we get over it, life moves on. But we tend to ask the same question about a more crucial issue. "Who’s winning in the world, the good, or the evil people?" We also want to know, in the long run, "Who’s going to win?" These days things don’t look like the are getting better for those on the side of good. Every day the sins of racism, a persistent presence, are being exposed. It’s even bigger than that. The twentieth century was the most brutal in the history of the world. Remember the movie "Schindler’s List?" It tells how Schindler cleverly saved a few thousand Jews during World War II. The movie gave us something to cheer about. But six million Jews and countless others died. And on and on. So, we ask a question that is more probing than about a baseball score: "Who’s winning, good or evil?" Are we on the losing side?

We are talking about weeds here – the weeds the parable describes were sown among the good wheat by an enemy at night, when everyone was asleep. And these weeds aren’t just out there in the big wide world, they are much closer at hand, even within the church we love. Someone said to me recently, "I just can’t stand one more headline about clergy misconduct, or a bishop’s cover-up!"

I think the early church saved this parable, and Matthew recorded it, because they also asked the same questions we and the servants in the parable ask, "Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?" And the question behind their question is ours as well, "Will evil, or good have the last word? Who’s going to win?" The parable doesn’t give an easy answer, it doesn’t explain it all to us: why evil exists... good things get corrupted... kids get messed up... suffering happens to good people, etc. But it does admit to the problem; good and evil coexist, up close to one another, up close to our lives – and they are involved in a struggle for a final victory.

The weeds seem to get into everything, even the landscape of our own spiritual field. Now there are definitely times when we must make decisions about what is right and wrong. We do try to maintain standards, especially for our children. But this parable is addressed to our church and personal lives where, in our fervor, we are quick to judge and act, pull up and cast aside, does suggest all the evidence isn’t in yet. The parable also warns that, in some cases, even though we are pretty sure, we may not be in the position to cast a deciding judgment. The owner, after all, does introduce a note of caution and a plea for patience. In effect he is saying, "You do not really know enough. You do not have grounds to judge. All the evidence isn’t in yet."

Jesus, the teller of the parable, knew this from his own experience. He chose servants to do God’s work who, if you looked at the early signs, didn’t turn out as expected. Judas, who was the keeper of the purse, a mover and shaker, showed early signs of promise. What about Peter’s failures, Thomas the doubter and the other men and women who kept coming up with the wrong answers to Jesus’ questions? They showed little initial promise, yet Jesus gave them a chance to grow and yield a rich harvest. "Ya’ just never know."

Today’s parable is an encouraging one for each of us. It is a story of grace, patience and hope. Aren’t we, who frequently look back on mistakes we have made, glad we had time to change and make amends? Aren’t we grateful for the chance and help God gave us to work things out? What used to be a weed, we were sure, turned out to be wheat. Suppose we had been judged on the spot back then? Today, as we look at our present situation, we can still detect weeds in ourselves and others – we are sure. Rather than being overcome by discouragement, the parable proposes a note of hope. After all, good seed has been planted in us and is growing. The burden of the struggle isn’t ours alone. We trust the owner, who knows what is happening, to help us sort things out. All this is summarized in a familiar, but often under-appreciated word – Grace.

Even as we feel dismayed at how much there is still left to do and how many questions we have ("Who’s winning?"), the parable gives us confidence. God is in charge. God is not indifferent to our doubts. God is not unaware of what still needs doing. God is guiding us in our struggle to bring about good. So, we will play the parable back in our imaginations, especially when things around us dismay and discourage us. We will look out at the field and think we know what needs doing. But we will hear this cautionary parable, and the voice that says, "Not so fast. Ya’ just never know."

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

www.usccb.org/bible/readings/071920.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind."

Wisdom 12: 19

Wisdom 12 shows us a caring God who is lenient, clement, and slow to anger and the passage above calls us to be the same. We are living in unsettling times; how are we going to respond to the winds of change?

First of all, I believe a good place to start is with Pope Francis’ address at the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements (7/9/15):

"Before all else, let us begin by acknowledging that change is needed. . . . Do we truly realize that something is wrong in a world where there are so many farmworkers without land, so many families without a home, so many laborers without rights, so many persons whose dignity is not respected? Do we realize that something is wrong where so many senseless wars are being fought and acts of fratricidal violence are taking place on our very doorstep? Do we realize something is wrong when the soil, water, air and living creatures of our world are under constant threat? So, if we do realize all this, let’s not be afraid to say it: we need change; we want change."

In Reading II, Paul speaks of humanity and creation yearning and groaning for redemption in the midst of suffering. God’s Spirit accompanies us by groaning in us and with us. Change is needed and we must work to make the needed changes in a just and kind way. On a local level, we can live our lives in a just fashion and share in our goods and well-being. On a state and federal level, we can each advocate to end an unjust issue that God has placed on our heart.

Yet, there is also something else that, in his address, Pope Francis wants us to recognize:

"These are not isolated issues. Can we recognize that invisible thread which links them? I wonder whether we can see that those destructive realities are part of a system which has become global. Do we realize that that system has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature?" (ibid.)

We need to take a long look at how "the mentality of profit at any price" manifests itself in our personal and societal lives and the damage it causes. We cannot live as Christians with blinders on our eyes to injustice--it is not kind to do so.

---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:

"Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn."

Reflection:

If we look at our present lives, we can still see what looks like weeds. Rather than being overcome by discouragement, we hear this parable of hope. Time is being given us to work things out, to let the good seed planted in us bear its fruit. We can trust the Owner knows what to do, and we can have trust in the outcome.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Where in my life do I want to do better? What needs changing?
  • Can I trust that I am not alone in my efforts, but that God is working with me for my well being?

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:

  • James H. Watts #0428143 (On death row since 7/19/01)
  • Bryan C. Bell #0592064 (8/24/01)
  • Clifford R. Miller #0742512 (10/25/01)

----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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