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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

16th SUNDAY (B) July 18, 2021

Jeremiah 23: 1-6; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2: 13-18; Mark 6: 30-34

By: Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

Today we have part two of a three-part narrative. Last Sunday Mark told us that Jesus called the Twelve together and sent them out to preach, heal and drive out unclean spirits (6: 7-13). In today’s passage, part two, they have returned and report to him, "All they had done and taught." The demands on them have not ceased because, when they return to Jesus, "People were coming and going in great numbers and they had no opportunity even to eat."

During the years since Vatican II many people have popularized retreats, retreat centers and have sought spiritual guides. Before Vatican II retreats seemed more the domain of priests, sisters and brothers in religious orders. Over the years the popularity of retreats for the general public has grown. Our lives have become so hectic, especially during this past pandemic year, when so many of us were locked in and had to restrict our outside activities. Many of us found ourselves busier than ever. That may have been one of the reasons people missed going to church, a chance to seek out a quiet atmosphere for prayer and reflection.

Which is what Jesus recommends for his tired disciples, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." But there is no rest for the weary because people tracked them down to the deserted place Jesus had taken them. As much as Jesus and the disciples needed their rest, when Jesus saw the needy people, "His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd and he began to teach them many things." They were in a deserted place, surely physically hungry, but Jesus fed them first by teaching them.

The image of the shepherd is key in today’s readings: in the prophet Jeremiah, the Responsorial Psalm (the very familiar Psalm 23) and the gospel. The figure of the king and the shepherd were often linked in the Hebrew texts. In Jeremiah’s condemnation of the kings of Judah during the reign of King Zedekiah, the prophet accuses them of neglecting their flock, the people of Judah. The results of their neglect of God’s people will be the destruction of Jerusalem. The people will be taking into exile in Babylon. But God, the Shepherd, will not abandon the flock. Jeremiah promises that God will shepherd them back and provide for them a righteous ruler. This promise of a just, hand-picked ruler by God, gave the people a hope for a Messiah King.

The gospel presents the image of Jesus shepherding and thus, fulfilling the people’s expectation: he gatherers, trains and disperses his apostles to teach and heal. When they return he has concern for them and leads them to a resting place. Next Sunday, in the third segment of this narrative, after teaching the people, Mark tells us that Jesus feed the crowds with bread. As our Responsorial Psalm has it, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want… You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes." We may be in the midst of struggles, wandering in a personal, or ecclesial desert, but our good Shepherd stays with us to guide and feed us: Jesus is both our Shepherd and Teacher.

Like the apostles who returned to Jesus from their mission, we too are called to continue his work in our world. By our baptism we are members of the living Body of Christ. The Spirit brings Jesus to us in the Eucharist, feeds us apostles and then sends us out to the hungry, displaced and lost to offer a guiding and helping hand. The work of us Christ-appointed shepherds is to make Christ the Shepherd present by our care of others; just as Jesus had compassion on the searching and hungry crowds in the desert and responded to them immediately.

Modern life, with all its conveniences and bounty for many of us, is also a desert for countless others. We are the Shepherd-representatives in our world. Look around: who are the lost, bewildered, hungry and ignorant? How are we sent to feed and guide them? It is what Jesus has done for us and what we are now charged to do for others.

There is a strange feature in the gospel: Jesus urges his harried and fatigued disciples to, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a bit." But what kind of food will they find in a "deserted place?" Shouldn’t Jesus have invited them to an oasis with fruit-bearing trees and cool waters? It turns out that in this deserted place the hungry disciples and the besieging crowd will be fed by God, the Source of Life. After Jesus feeds them with the Word of God he will provide bread for them.

What kind of "rest" will they find in this deserted place? Remember at this stage of Jesus’ ministry these are Jewish people who practice the observance of the Sabbath rest, a day the faithful do no work. On the Sabbath God works for us. The people can rest because God will nourish and sustain them. How? By the life-giving breath of God, the Spirit. That’s what happens when we weary disciples rest in the Lord. We receive the divine energy and nourishment we need to be. fruitful disciples of the Shepherd. That’s a good reason to stop, take a breath and just be... allow God to breathe in us.

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

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/071821.cfm

QUOTABLE

"God’s ‘style’ has three aspects: closeness, compassion and tenderness. This is how he draws closer to each one of us."
  • ---Pope Francis, in a letter to Fr James Martin, SJ complimenting him for his ministry to the L.G.B.T. community, quoted in the "America Magazine" online newsletter June 27, 2021
  • JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

    He came and preached peace to you who were far off

    and peace to those who were near

    Ephesians 2:17

    How many of you stop to contemplate what the nonviolent peace of Jesus means to your faith life? How many of you have explored what it means to live nonviolently? When have we, as a Church, failed to live up to this model?

    Dr. Ken Butigan, past executive director of Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service and professor at DePaul University in Chicago, writes a very clarifying article on gospel nonviolence in U.S. Catholic on-line (2/27/2017). Butigan states that Jesus "modeled nonviolence by actively confronting injustice and violence, as when he defied the Sabbath laws to heal the disabled, confronted unjust power at the Temple, challenged a throng of assailants accusing a woman of adultery, and, on the night before he died, commanded Peter to put down his sword. Neither passive nor weak, Jesus’ nonviolence is the power of love in action for the well-being of all" (emphasis mine).

    Echoing the formation of ‘one new person’ from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Butigan asks us to "imagine nurturing a new identity as nonviolent people in a nonviolent church with a clear and deliberate commitment to preaching, teaching, activating, and boldly proclaiming Jesus’ nonviolence at every level." He quotes Pope Benedict XVI in his 2007 homily, "Nonviolence, for Christians, is not mere tactical behavior but a person's way of being, the attitude of one who is convinced of God's love and power, who is not afraid to confront evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Loving the enemy is the nucleus of the 'Christian revolution.'" In the same address, the pope declared that nonviolence "does not consist in surrendering to evil--as claims a false interpretation of 'turn the other cheek' (Luke 6:29)--but in responding to evil with good (Romans 12:17-21), and thus breaking the chain of injustice." Catholic social thought in recent years has increasingly affirmed the centrality of gospel nonviolence.

    Perhaps, there could be no clearer statement on the part of the Church than that she would move from her just war theory to adapt a just peace framework. If we truly are the Body of Christ, then Jesus’ nonviolent peace is the only way forward.

    To read the entire article, go to: https://uscatholic.org/articles/201702/the-gospel-of-nonviolence

    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:

    "When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd,

    his heart was moved with pity for them,

    for they were like sheep without a shepherd,

    and he began to teach them many things."

    Reflection:

    Modern life, with all its conveniences and bounty for many of us, is also a desert for countless others. We are the Shepherd’s representatives in our world. Look around: who are the lost, bewildered, hungry and ignorant? How are we sent to feed and guide them? It is what Jesus has done for us and what we are now charged to do for others.

    So we ask ourselves:

    • As I survey the world surrounding me who are the people tht move me with compassion?
    • How is the Spirit of God calling me to respond to them?

    POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

    "Love all my friends and all the friendships that I have made. They are like the sky. It is all part of life, like a big full plate of food for the soul. I hope I left everyone a plate of food full of happy memories, happiness and no sadness."

    —Last words of Quintin Jones before he was executed on May 19, 2001 at Huntsville Prison, Texas. Media witnesses were not admitted to his execution.


    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:

    • Tony S. Summers #0395658 (On death row since 3/22/2011)
    • William Robinson #0694689 (12/9/2011)
    • Mario Mc Neil #0788387 (5/29/2013)

    ----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, OP at Jboll@opsouth.org

    3. Our webpage: http://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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