WELCOME: to our latest email recipients, the women retreatants from Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, NC.
I am struck this week by Joseph Donders’ take on our gospel passage. (See book recommendation below) The gospel images are very familiar to Christians, "You are the salt of the earth….You are the light of the world." What Christian isn’t familiar with them and has even asked themselves, "How am I salt and light of the world?" It is helpful to hear diverse interpretations of familiar biblical texts, lest by over-familiarity they become just lovely quotes posted at the entrances to chapels, but not realized in our daily living. So, a brief survey into Donders’ interpretation and application of these familiar passages may help us hear and act on them (cf. pages 19-20). "You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world." With Donders’ insights let’s look at these two images which describe how Christians are to live and interact with the world.
Salt is not at the top of the food chain – it doesn’t rank with other possible items Jesus could have chosen to guide our presence in the world. Why not, "You are the finest wine?" Or, "You are a chef’s scrumptious pastry?" Wouldn’t those make us feel special? Salt is such a poor item to use for our Christian calling. You can’t do anything significant with salt. In a world where people are starving of famine you can’t serve it for food. In drought, you can’t drink it. Salt can make land sterile, unable to produce. Was Jesus off the mark in this teaching to his disciples?
If we are like salt we have to get involved and we should be prepared to be mixed in the pot: not merely look on like spectators. We Christians do not have to stand out in the places and communities we find ourselves; nor do we have to be leaders of any group, or social project we belong to. On its own salt is not appetizing, it’s biting to the taste. If we do get mixed in with the other contents we will be lost in the blend, but we will contribute to adding flavor to food. It’s best when salt is mixed in with other ingredients. As Christians, we need to roll up our sleeves and get into the human mix where we can make a difference for the good.
Like salt, light is not useful on its own. Intense light can even be harmful to the naked eye. We are warned not to look too long at the sun without some kind of filter. But light is useful when it enables us to see things around us that we might miss, or that other people are missing. When we do see what the dark has been covering, Jesus calls us to bring those things into the awareness of the world. For example, guided by the light of the Gospels we can see the world’s injustices to whole communities of people; the plight of refugees and exiles; the degradation to the environment caused by our wasteful ways; the resurgence of anti-Semitism, the injustices done the poor in our prison system, etc. Formed by the light of the gospel teachings we become "the light of the world." If we are salt in the world and a shining light showing the way to others, then we will fulfill the vocation Jesus has given each of us.
It is said that the Book of the Prophet Isaiah is addressed to survivors (1:9). The Israelites had experienced defeat at the hands of the Babylonians. Now they are enslaved, awaiting for God to do what they can not do on their own, free them from their captivity. God had done it before for them against the Assyrians, so the defeated people have reason to hope. We become one with them because, like them, we must live in hope of what we do not yet see fulfilled and cannot accomplish on our own.
The book does not tell of the Babylonian defeat and the people’s deliverance from slavery. It ends with them still in captivity. With them we also are left with the hope that God will bring the deliverance God has promised. That promise was envisioned in the early pages of Isaiah (2:4): "He shall judge between the nations and impose terms on many nations. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks." But apparently, not yet. And so they and we wait and hope. When life bears down on us, the future looks bleak and we see no way out of the current distress, can we accept Isaiah’s invitation to put our trust in the Lord?
In the meantime, as we wait, Isaiah invites us to live righteous lives, as people striving for a goal (58:6-14). He calls for our liturgical life and our whole lifestyle to show forth justice and righteousness. "Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked." It’s what God wants for all people and we are to be God’s instruments in achieving that vision.
It is not a matter of earning God’s pleasure with our good deeds. Rather, when we do justice and live in right relationships with others we are collaborators with God’s presence in the world. But when we act unjustly, we cut ourselves off from God. Isaiah promises that even though the people live in awful straits, when they act in ways that reflect God’s rule and presence in the world, they are ready to receive God: "Then you shall call and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help and God will say, ‘Here I am.’"
Part of Psalm 112 has been chosen as our response to today’s Isaiah text. It assures us that those who accept and live by God’s rule will be gracious and merciful. They will be like God. Jesus has taught similarly. When the just feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and care for the least of our sisters and brothers, they will experience the presence of God in Christ with us (Mt 25:31-46).
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
If you. .
.satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you. . .
Over five hundred years ago, St. Teresa of Avila insisted that each of us serve as the hands and feet, eyes and ears of Christ in the world. She has left us the following words:
The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Superiors General has designated February 8 as the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. Through prayer, we not only reflect on the experiences of those that have suffered through this affront to human dignity, but also comfort, strengthen, and help empower survivors.
February 8 was chosen as it is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped as a child in 1877 and sold into slavery multiple times in Sudan and Italy. Once Josephine was freed, she became a Canossian nun and dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and to comforting the poor and suffering. She was declared a Saint in 2000. https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=5601
Praying and acting on this issue needs more than just one day’s attention. The USCCB has created SHEPHERD--S top H uman Trafficking and Exploitation. Protect, Help, E mpower, and Restore D ignity. This program educates lay and religious leaders about human trafficking from a Catholic perspective, equipping them with needed knowledge and skills to combat forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation at the local level. If you want to respond to the Church's call for heightened commitment against modern-day slavery, go to: https://www.usccb.org/committees/administrative/become-shepherd.
In 2013, USCCB launched the Amistad Movement. Like the captives aboard the Amistad slave ship who revolted and won their freedom, the Amistad Movement seeks to empower immigrants in at risk communities with the educational tools to protect their own community members from falling victim to human trafficking. https://www.usccb.org/offices/anti-trafficking-program/amistad-movement
Christ has no body now on earth but ours…then light shall rise
Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS, Director,
Office of Human Life, Dignity, and 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:
Jesus said to his disciples:
"You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything."
Jesus Christ is not only calling us the "salt of the earth," he is telling us to be that salt. It’s an awesome responsibility for we are to be witnesses who point the way to Jesus. We may feel as small and insignificant as salt, such a tiny ingredient, but like salt we are to mix in, not avoid, life in the world. People will recognize the flavor we bring into the world–it is the quiet, but effective presence of Christ–the one with whom we have a lasting covenant of salt.
So we ask ourselves:
Many people say that we need the death penalty in order to have "justice for the victims."
But so many family members of murder victims say over and over that the death penalty is not what they want. It mirrors the evil. It extends the trauma. It does not provide closure. It creates new victims… it is revenge, not justice.
Killing is the problem, not the solution.
----Shane Claiborne, Death Penalty Action's Advisory Board Chairman,
This is a particularly vulnerable time for state and federal prisoners. 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, P.O. 247 Phoenix, MD 21131
Please note: Central Prison is in Raleigh, NC., but for security purposes, mail to inmates is processed through a clearing house at the above address in Maryland.
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.
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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, OP 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, OP
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736
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