I am happy to announce a new feature on our webpage. Each week we will be posting General Intercessions for the upcoming Sunday liturgies by Msgr. Joseph Masiello, retired pastor of Holy Trinity Parish, Westfield, NJ. The intercessions will be based on the assigned scriptures, liturgical season and current events. When I first heard Msgr. Joe’s intercessions at Sunday Mass I thought they were clear, literate and perfectly tuned to the day’s liturgical celebration.
Take a look:
A few years back I preached in a city where there was a soup kitchen for street people run by three Catholic sisters. Well, it wasn’t a soup kitchen exactly—it was more like a restaurant. The "guests" were greeted at the door by church volunteers and shown to tables with tablecloths and given a menu. The fare was limited, but they had a choice of "entrees" from which they could choose. There are quicker and more efficient ways to feed the hungry, especially these days with so many homeless and hungry on our streets. Food pantries and soup kitchens can barely keep up with those who come seeking food and clothing. The current numbers of the hungry are increasing and the charitable collections of food and clothing are just not enough to meet the urgent needs.
But still, that special soup kitchen, with its parish volunteers and special "guests" stays with me as a wonderful sign of what the scriptures reveal today about the food and drink we are promised at God’s table – where we will be treated as honored guests and where no one will lack food and clothing. As the spiritual, in its own way, says, "All God’s children gonna have shoes." That’s a promise we can bank on. We will all be special at the table and no one will lack for anything.
Are we believers all just dreamers? Considering the plight of so many these days, who has the audacity to promise anything better in the future, when things are so very bad now? A prophet does - and when a prophet speaks, we become dreamers of the better world we and God are struggling to create. Prophets are audacious and, in biblical times, as well as today, they can seem like fools.
The prophet we call "Deutero-Isaiah" (6th century B.C.E.), was with the people of Judah in exile. His prophetic task wasn’t to reprimand them for their infidelities, which got them into exile in the first place – but to comfort them, by telling them, despite all signs to the contrary, God had not forgotten them. The prophet told them they would be given a new beginning. As in the days of the Exodus, God would deliver them from slavery, lead them across the desert, provide them again with water and food for their journey and bring them safely home. These pandemic days we can feel like struggling desert travelers going – who knows where? – ending, who knows when?
Here’s where the "restaurant" run by the sisters comes to mind. The defeated and broken people in exile are getting an invitation to be God’s guests and to come to eat and drink free of charge. "All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, receive grain and eat."
That’s how it always is with God. When we are at our lowest point, in one exile of our own making, or another, a special delivery letter comes to invite us back home, where a meal is waiting us. The invitation reads, "I don’t care what you have done, come on home! Let me supply the nourishment you have desired and searched for in all the wrong places. I have what your really need and I want to give it to you free of charge. For heaven’s sake, forget the past, we have a future together!" Hear in the southern U. S. we might word the invitation differently: "Ya’ll come! Set yourself down. Eat. Hear?")
That southern phrase ends with "Hear?" As if to say (as a native-born New Yorker living in the South, I am on shaky ground here) – "Do you hear what I am saying?" "Trust my words." Or, "I really mean what I’m saying!" Three times in today’s Isaiah reading the prophet, speaking for God, does a similar thing: "Heed me...." "Come to me heedfully, listen...." Despite their current situation, through the prophet God is reassuring the crushed people to trust God’s words and act on what they hear. God has not abandoned them, will deliver them, settle them again in their land, feed them and give them drink – free of charge. They need to "heed" what they hear and respond. "Ya’ll come!"
In Jesus, God has sent out another similar invitation to guests to come, sit down, eat and drink. God offers a special meal, free of charge for those who are in a "deserted place." Appearances can be deceiving – where’s the banquet table, linen napkins, candles, "fattened calf" and "choice wines" the prophets promised would be served God’s people? Not yet. But at the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, God’s promise to the needy is renewed and signs of fulfillment are evident for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Isaiah encourages us again today, "Heed me and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare." Or, as we might say these days, "Listen up!"
The multiplication of the loaves and fish is a spectacular miracle. But it starts very small and among seeming-insignificant people. Which is where God usually starts a good work, so that the people can’t claim any success was based just on their skills and merits. God is at work here. It is God’s idea to feed the least and it is God who makes it possible to do it.
Nevertheless, as we learn from Matthew’s account, people do have a part to play; though it does seem small by the world’s ways of measuring. The disciples understand their situation: the crowd is large and they have next to nothing to give to address the people’s hunger. "Five loaves and two fish are all we have here." They may have practically nothing to offer, but at least they "heed" what Jesus says and offer up what little they do have. They could have looked to their own needs and saved the few loaves and fish for themselves. That would have been the prudent thing to do. But the crowd was hungry, they had to be fed and the disciples put what little they had to feed them completely into Jesus’ hands.
So it is a partnership God wants from us! We provide the best we can to do God’s work and, instead of standing far off to see how we do, God rolls up the sleeves and gets to work with us. We have got to trust that – otherwise, we would never set about to address the huge issues we face in our world, like hunger, racism, war, injustice, violence, disease, social inequalities, etc. We do what we can, even though it feels puny to us and appears insignificant by the world’s standards of measurement. We hand over what we have to Christ who invites, "Bring them here to me" – and we will see what he does with our offerings.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.
I have no doubt that sometimes we hear God through others. This coming week, on August 6 and August 9, we mark the 75th anniversaries of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by nuclear bombs. So, on this anniversary date, I want you to listen to the voice of Setsuko Thurlow, who survived the Hiroshima bomb when she was thirteen years old. These words are from her 2017 Nobel Prize acceptance speech:
"I speak as a member of the family of hibakusha – those of us who, by some miraculous chance, survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For more than seven decades, we have worked for the total abolition of nuclear weapons. . .We refused to sit idly in terror as the so-called great powers took us past nuclear dusk and brought us recklessly close to nuclear midnight. . .We said: humanity and nuclear weapons cannot coexist.
"Today, I want you to feel in this hall the presence of all those who perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I want you to feel, above and around us, a great cloud of a quarter million souls. Each person had a name. Each person was loved by someone. Let us ensure that their deaths were not in vain.
"I still vividly remember that morning. At 8:15, I saw a blinding bluish-white flash from the window. . .As I regained consciousness in the silence and darkness, I found myself pinned by the collapsed building. I began to hear my classmates’ faint cries: ‘Mother, help me. God, help me.’
". . .As I crawled out, the ruins were on fire. Most of my classmates in that building were burned to death alive. I saw all around me utter, unimaginable devastation. Processions of ghostly figures shuffled by. Grotesquely wounded people, they were bleeding, burnt, blackened and swollen. Parts of their bodies were missing. Flesh and skin hung from their bones. Some with their eyeballs hanging in their hands. Some with their bellies burst open, their intestines hanging out. The foul stench of burnt human flesh filled the air. Thus, with one bomb my beloved city was obliterated. Most of its residents were civilians who were incinerated, vaporized, carbonized – among them, members of my own family and 351 of my schoolmates."
Listen, that you may have life. . ."humanity and nuclear weapons cannot coexist."
---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
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:
Taking the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven, Jesus said the blessing, broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.
Jesus saw the hungry crowd and with the loaves and fish his disciples offered, he fed them. While we might receive comfort knowing that our inner hungers are fed at our eucharistic meal, let’s not just "spiritualize" today’s gospel.
Let’s remember that Jesus’ pity extended to the crowd’s physical needs that he saw when he disembarked from the boat. Matthew tells us, "He was moved with pity for them and he cured their sick," and, with the disciples’ help, he fed their hunger.
So, we ask ourselves:
"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."
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:
----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/
"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 email@example.com.
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
1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:
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.
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736
Click on a link button below to view the reflection indicated.
(The newest items are always listed first.)