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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

26th SUNDAY (B) SEPTEMBER 26, 2021

Numbers 11: 25-29; Psalm 19;
James 5: 1-6; Mark 9: 38-43, 47-48

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

I wonder why Eldad and Medad weren’t at the great meeting with Moses and the seventy elders when God bestowed the spirit of prophesy on them? Did they forget the time and date of the gathering? Had there been a disagreement between them and the others and so they refused to attend? Still, Eldad and Medad received the spirit of prophecy, just like the rest. Joshua, part of the "in group" protests and wants Moses to restrain Eldad and Medad.

Joshua has a restricted spirit and a small heart. If things aren’t done by the standards of the inner circle they must be stopped. Only those who are on our side and who think and do things according to our ways get to share in the gifts of God and experience God’s presence. But Moses will have none of that kind of thinking because he has met and experienced God’s bigness of heart. We don’t have to clutch God to ourselves as our private property. Some religious people do that, restricting God’s presence and activity to conforming members and in precisely enacted rituals.

The gospel parallels the reading from Numbers. A person who is not a member of the disciples’ community is driving out demons using Jesus’ name. Wouldn’t you think the disciples would be happy to know a person had been cured of a dreaded ailment? Why didn’t they also celebrate that Jesus’ name was spreading and others would be learning about the master they had left everything to follow? Apparently, when they chose to follow Jesus and leave their possessions behind, they did not leave their sense of entitlement behind as well.

The disciples were closest to Jesus and they had never given permission for some stranger to use Jesus’ name to heal – a power that Jesus had shared with them. You would think that if good is being done and evil overcome in the world, what does it matter who is doing the good deed, especially if they are doing it in Jesus’ name? We do not belong to an exclusive and privileged club with strict rules for participation. God’s love breaks out beyond our restrictions and borders. Nor is God’s activity limited to our using the right words and formulas and performing the proper gestures.

As a Christian I look for Christ’s presence in the world doing what he did in his lifetime. The details may differ from the gospel’s; someone may not be invoking Jesus’ name in doing the good they do. Still, when someone forgives a wrong done; a neighbor sacrifices time and resources to help someone in need; medical personnel travel across the country to relieve a pandemic-swamped emergency room; a grammar school collects food and clothing for the poor – though the name of Jesus may not be spoken, and the people involved might not be Christian, still, I see him present, doing what he always did, reaching out to raise up the fallen and rejected.

A quote from THE INTERPRETERS BIBLE sums up this part of the passage:

"These words of Jesus, then, are a rebuke to all our blind exclusiveness, our arrogant assumptions, that God's action in the world is limited to the forms which we are familiar. ‘Something there is that does not love a wall.' It is the mind of God. The church has suffered terribly, and the world has suffered terribly, from this fence-building frenzy. If one tenth of the time which Christians have devoted to building fences had gone into building roads as a highway for God, the world would be a far better place today."

Jesus came to heal the sick and help the poor. If a doctor dedicates her life; giving of her free time; not charging indigent patients who don’t have health care; even providing free medication – but doesn’t explicitly invoke the name of Jesus – would she also come under Jesus’ banner – "For whoever is not against us is for us"? Mother Theresa thought if you gave a cup of water to a thirsty person out of love, you were in fact a follower of Jesus. While we don’t need to "baptize" every good, non-believer for their works still, we can say they are living in a way Jesus would recognize and applaud.

There is a shift in today’s gospel that may be hard to hear, the part about putting a millstone around the neck of a scandalous member and casting them into the sea; cutting off an offending hand; casting someone into an unquenchable fire in Gehenna, etc. What’s going on here? We must recognize Jesus’ Middle Eastern way of speaking and the use of hyperbole to make a point. Note, that Gehenna wasn’t another name for hell, but referred to Jerusalem’s smoking, foul-smelling garbage dump – a perfect metaphor to warn disciples of the consequences of sinful behavior, being cast into a smelly, burning garbage dump!

Mark follows the conversation between John and Jesus about the disciples’ sense of entitlement, with this teaching about extreme measures to avoid sin. In the context, the disciples’ elitist attitude can be a scandal to the "little ones" in the community. Those of rank in the community, or the "established members," must set an example of humility and sensitivity for the believing faithful. In the images of the gospel, if we seek the place of honor in a procession we should cut off our foot. If we refuse to see the abusive behavior of some in the community, we should pluck out our eye. Could Jesus have made his point in any stronger terms? We know from recent coverups of abusive behavior by some of our church leaders, that Jesus’ words have not worn out their meaning.

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

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/092621.cfm

 

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

 

"You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure"

James 5:5

In the second reading today, the rich, during the early Christian era, are mocked for hoarding their wealth and shrinking in their duty to share. Fast forward to an article in an August 2019 issue of "National Geographic" that describes a world on the move trying to escape rising seas, withering crops, wars and violence, discrimination, and lack of economic opportunity. What is our response as Christians now to migrants and refugees?

Today marks the conclusion of National Migration Week that climaxes with the Vatican’s observance of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees (WDMR), which always falls on this last Sunday of September. The primary theme for this year’s WDMR is "Towards an ever wider ‘WE’". In his letter announcing this year’s theme, Pope Francis emphasizes that "this focus calls on us to ensure that ‘after all this, we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those,’ but only ‘us’’ (Fratelli tutti, no. 35). And this universal us must become a reality first of all within the Church which is called to cultivate communion in diversity." Today we prayerfully reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children, and victims and survivors of human trafficking.

I found myself reflecting on the words "an ever wider ‘WE’" with two quotes about circles. The first is by Edwin Markham, an American poet, who lived from 1852 to 1940.

"He drew a circle that shut me out

"Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

"But love and I had the wit to win:

"We drew a circle and took him In!"

The second quote is from our very own Durham, N.C., twentieth century human rights activist, Dr. Pauli Murray. She states, "When my brothers try to draw a circle to exclude me, I shall draw a larger circle to include them. Where they speak out for the privileges of a puny group, I shall shout for the rights of all mankind."

So, what will be your response to today’s migrants and refugees? Will you draw a circle of an ever wider ‘We’ or will you hoard and shrink? To join Cathedral’s Justice for Immigrants, contact Luisa Martin-Price or Refugee Resettlement Ministry, contact Jerome Harrison, both at  socialconcern@hnojnc.org  

----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:

At that time, John said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us."

Reflection:

As Christians we look for Christ’s presence in the world doing what he did in his lifetime. When someone forgives a wrong done; a neighbor sacrifices time and resources to help someone in need; medical personnel travel across the country to relieve a pandemic-swamped emergency room; a grammar school collects food and clothing for the poor – though the name of Jesus may not be spoken, and the people involved might not be Christian still, we see him present, doing what he always did, reaching out to raise up the fallen and rejected.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Can we spot the active presence of Jesus in the good deeds done for those in need?
  • How do our daily activities line up with the good Jesus intends for others?

NOTICE

National Catholic Pledge
to End
the Death Penalty

In response to our Church's call, the Catholic Mobilizing Network invites us to sign a pledge to educate, advocate, and pray for an end to the death penalty. (Note: you don’t have to be a Catholic to sign.)

https://catholicsmobilizing.org/action/pledge
 


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 pandemic 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:

  • Daniuek Garner #0141374 (On death row since 9/3/1993)
  • Johnny Daughtry #0099090 (10/4/1993)
  • George Buckner #0054499 (10/8/1993)

----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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