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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

21st SUNDAY (B) AUGUST 22, 2021

Joshua 24: 1-2a, 15-17, 18b; Psalm 34;
Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6: 60-69

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

In our first reading Joshua reminds the tribes of Israel that God is a Promise Keeper. He gathered the people at Shechem for a crucial meeting and when the tribes came together he formed them into the nation of Israel. Joshua had led them into battle against the Canaanites. The people were spurred on in their struggle by their belief that God had promised them a land. With their success Joshua called the Israelites to renew the covenant and recommit themselves to God. In Joshua’s challenge we also hear the call to choose and serve God alone with a singular devotion and obedience.

There were other religions and cults to draw the people away from God. Joshua makes it very clear: the people must commit to their God who led them out of slavery, across the desert to the Promise Land. Wholehearted devotion is the standard Joshua puts before the people. He also sets the example by professing his own faith, "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."

Isn’t that what many of us want? First for ourselves; to express and live by a clear statement of faith. "As for me… I will serve the Lord." But not just for ourselves. If we have family, especially younger members, we want to set an example and have them join us in our commitment to God. Joshua’s profession is also a prayer we would make: "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." We know that’s what our younger generation needs from us; not just lectures and rules, but an example, a role model, who shows by words and actions, "As for me… I will serve the Lord." If that is the kind of example we set for our children we will also be able, like Joshua, to include them in a fuller proclamation, "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."

The commitment Joshua calls for is not just for individual fidelity to God, but for the whole people and nation to renew the covenant and commit themselves to their faithful God. And isn’t that what we wish for our own nation: that we be a people faithful to God and God’s ways, especially towards the needy? In other words, we want to imitate God’s love for each member of our community, especially the most vulnerable, and to respect the unique gifts of each member. People are different, yet Joshua calls each and all to pledge allegiance to God. He stirs up the community’s memory of God’s saving actions for them to spur their enthusiastic response and commitment. As we look back on our lives we too are conscious of how God stayed with us, especially through difficult times? Doesn’t that memory awaken in us gratitude and faith that God will continue to be with us into our future?

To our modern ears the second reading from Ephesians borders on the offensive – maybe it even crosses over the line – at least in our initial hearing. The Ephesians reading indicates that the early Christians adapted the "household codes" of their day, which came from the surrounding Hellenistic world. These were codes based on subjection, setting forth the duties of members of the household – husbands as the heads and then, wives, children, slaves. In the New Testament these codes were "Christianized," usually by adding terms like, "in the Lord" or, as in Ephesians today, "out of reverence for Christ."

But Ephesians breaks out of the cultural mold and presents marriage as a parable for the relations between Christ and his Church. The author begins with the usual household code’s teaching, "Wives should be subordinate to their husbands...." Then, elaborating in a more Christian sense, the author calls for the husband to love his wife without reservation. Now the emphasis shifts to the responsibility of the husband to his wife. So, the author (it’s not certain it’s Paul), while not changing the marriage institution in the Greco-Roman world of the time, asks Christians to live in a fundamentally different way. It’s there in the opening statement, "Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ." In other words, live in a different way than those in the world around you. The husband, the master of the household, who owns all the property and has all the power, is to subordinate himself to the one who is regarded as powerless. Indeed, he is to see his wife as higher than himself!

How can the author ask such a world-shattering way of behaving? Because Jesus is the model of such behavior. Though he was Lord, he freely humbled himself and submitted himself out of love for us. Some Christian traditions, based on the one verse "Wives be subject to your husbands," take this verse out of context and apply it literally to the relationship between husband, wife and children. But, in its context, we can see that the complete text requires mutual self-sacrificing love, service and sharing.

In the gospel the disciples have to make a choice when Jesus asks them, "Do you want to leave me, to?" It is a challenge: do they want to continue with Jesus and believe in him, despite the hard teaching he has placed before them? If they do they must eat his body and drink his blood, i.e. be a full part of the Eucharistic Memorial which recalls his death and resurrection. As with Joshua and the Hebrew, sharing Jesus, the bread of life, binds us in a religious community, a community of faith living by the example Jesus set in his sacrifice for us.

Today’s passage is an important moment in John’s Gospel, a turning point. Jesus is challenging his disciples to make a decision, to accept the gift of himself, the bread of life (vv 51-58) – or not. It is like the challenge put before the tribes at Shechem, requiring full acceptance and a life lived in conformity to the Lord. Will the disciples affirm this new covenant which Jesus is offering them

All the disciples have witnessed Jesus’ works and heard his teachings. But, just as coming to church, it is more than a matter of showing up. Like the disciples, we too are asked for a full commitment to Christ, to see beyond the sign of the bread to the presence of the One who gives his whole life for us. Joshua and his household gave themselves totally to God. Jesus makes it clear to his disciples that God is given them the gift to believe in him, a gift we have also received. It is not only this faith that brings us here to worship and thanks. We are asked to respond to the Onw we receive: to follow him, share his life with one another and be the witnesses of his life to the world.

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

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/082221.cfm

QUOTABLE

"To pray," observed the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, perhaps the greatest modern theologian of the spiritual life, is "to bring God back into the world...to expand God’s presence." For Heschel, talking about God, which is what theologians do, was idle chatter unless one first learned to talk to God.

--Newsweek 1/6/1992 Quoted in "The Living Pulpit, " July-September 1993, p. 13

"Ephesians (5:21) begins with an instruction to be subject to one another out of reverence to Christ; and, of course, that affects husbands to wives, as well as wives to husbands.... the obligation of the husband to love is treated more extensively than the obligation of the wife to be subject and both are rooted in God’s initial plan for union in marriage (5:31=Gen 2. 24).

----Raymond Brown, S.S. in, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW TESTAMENT. New York: Doubleday, 1997, page 624.

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

If it does not, please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve:

—Joshua 24: 15

A friend of mine sent me the following small story that I want to share with you—When they were small, I took my three children on a field trip to explore an older Catholic church abundantly adorned with colorful stained-glass and brightly-painted statues. My youngest son was around four years of age at the time. As we quietly visited the faces that gazed down on us from lofty pedestals, he addressed each statue with the words, “No, it’s not you!” When we reached the imposing figure of the Sacred Heart, my son looked back at me and declared, “Yes. . .this one’s God!” “Why is THIS one God?” I asked. “Well,” he replied, “because God’s heart is always on the outside.”  

It must be hard for the Lord to gaze upon us with such great selfless love and find that love unrequited in so many instances. God knows that one cannot be forced to love another and only love freely given is genuine love. So, today’s scriptures are quite clear: accept or reject the Lord. For discipleship to be authentic, it must be a free choice. Have you ever sat down and given yourself time to consider who or what it is that you serve? Who or what would you love without condition?

For us, as the laity, we must know what we are choosing. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it” (1816). The Vatican II document, “The Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People,” adds, “Cooperating as citizens of this world. . .the laity should vitalize their lives with charity and, to the extent of each person’s capability, give concrete expression to it in works” (IV,16). Reflect on the level to which you are “all in” with your commitment to Christ. Are you satisfied that you have shared all the love that you have to give? What steps can you take to increase your life with Christ by loving the least of these?

To love and serve the God whose heart is so visibly present or to love and serve lesser interests. . .it is not that complicated, and it is yours to decide.

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 the Book of Joshua:

Joshua addressed all the people...

"As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."

Reflection:

Isn’t Joshua’s testimony what parents at today’s Eucharist are trying to make and set as an example for their children? They hope, when their children become adults they, like their parents before them, will say, "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."

So, we ask ourselves:

  • How did my own parents encourage or hinder my life of faith?
  • What kind of example of faith am I in my family?

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. 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:

  • Edward Davis #0100579 (On death row since 3/12/1992)
  • Kenneth Rouse #0353186 (3/23/1992)
  • Michael Reeves #0339314 (5/4/1992)

----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, OP.

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: 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

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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