I never liked scary movies as a kid. As time has passed nothing has changed – I still don’t like them. I just don’t find it entertaining to be frightened out of my wits. Today’s gospel sounds like a script for a scary movie. If it were made into a movie not even Tom Cruise, in the hero’s role, could save the world from the destruction Jesus predicts. Talk about scary movies!
In our time Jesus’ description of the end seems to be happening. As I write this Russia has intensified its missile attacks on Ukranian cities and Putin is threatening nuclear attacks. Hurricane Ian has done terrible damage to Florida, and longtime residents there are wondering if they will ever be able to rebuild – which they have had to do in the past. Forest fires are spreading throughout the western states and so many others are parched from drought. What surely seems like a vision of the Apocalypse... the icebergs are melting and the seas are rising, threatening coastal cities around the world and islands in the Pacific. It doesn’t look good. A street preacher holding a sign reading, "The end is near!" might have a point.
Luke’s gospel, written about 50-60 years after Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was narrating what actually happened to Jesus’ followers: they were thrown out of their synagogues, imprisoned and brought before civil authorities, because they were followers of Christ. Passages like today’s must have encouraged and comforted them, as it might comfort us. When our world collapses, or events raise our fear levels, Jesus’ words help us see opportunities to live out of our faith and witness it to others. As Jesus summed it up: the endings, difficulties and persecutions, because of our faith, "will lead to your giving testimony." At the darkest times suffering can provide opportunities for us to express our hope. Which would raise questions from those around us, "Where do you get your strength from?" "What makes you so hopeful?" Just as Jesus said, this will "lead to your giving witness."
What was going through Jesus’ mind and what was on the disciples’ minds? If Luke is including the disciples with those who were admiring the Temple, then we know what was preoccupying them – the magnificence of the Temple and probably other worldly attractions. Herod may have been a cruel tyrant, but he was also a master builder and the Temple topped the list of his dazzling architectural achievements. Everyone who saw the Temple was awed by it.
Except Jesus, who predicted "the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down." Luke’s readers would know that what Jesus said had come true. In 70 CE the Romans destroyed the Temple, looted it and took its treasures back to Rome. Early Christians, recalling Jesus’ prediction and knowing what had happened, could put confidence in Jesus’ other words: that he would be with and enlighten his disciples when they endured the anticipated persecutions. "I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute."
It is another reminder that, after the resurrection, Jesus did not leave his disciples on their own during difficult times. He would be with them and enable them to persevere, "By your perseverance you will secure your lives." The reader of Luke’s gospel might go next to his sequel, the Acts of the Apostles, to see how Jesus’ words were fulfilled. In Acts his disciples were "handed over" to authorities, arrested, and gave testimony "before kings and governors." Just as Jesus had anticipated. They also manifested a wisdom that confounded their persecutors (Stephen in Acts 6:10), just as Jesus had promised.
The end time may still be far off, but Christians are persecuted right up to this present time. We can be reassured that even as we suffer for our faith, in big ways, or daily smaller trials, Christ has not left us on our own. We have the confidence of Jesus’ words that he will give his followers wisdom to witness to him and the strength to persevere. Through all the trials Christians have had to endure his promises have held: he has been with us and finally we will be totally safe in his hands. Jesus’ words are as relevant for us now as they were to his disciples. Is that what he means when he speaks the paradox, "Not a hair on your head will be destroyed"?
Despite all the disasters, false prophets and personal afflictions, Jesus speaks words of confidence for us. Can we rely on his words; can we be strengthened and patiently endure based on his words, when all else collapses around us?
The biblical narratives describe what has happened and, as in today’s gospel, what will happen. But we are not just reading the Scriptures for the sake of learning history, or predicting the future, but to learn how to interpret and respond to what is happening to us and our world today. We live within verses 12 – 19, the time during which Jesus says we are to give testimony. These are difficult times that can humble the believer, make us aware of the weakness of our faith, but also encourage us to fall back on Jesus and his promise to us that we will endure and "secure our lives" – or as another translation has it, "You will gain your souls."
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
Sing praise to the Lord. . .the Lord will rule the world with
justice and the peoples with equity.
One of Cathedral’s pray/study/act groups, The Reflecting Pool, is focused around the topic of racial justice and has become excited about promoting the cause for canonization of Sr. Thea Bowman. Today’s psalm seems custom-made with her in God’s mind. In this Black Catholic History Month, watch a brand-new documentary about her life that was shown last month on ABC network. "Going Home Like a Shooting Star: Thea Bowman’s Journey to Sainthood," comes from NewGroup Media and the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi. Along with archival media of Sister Thea, the documentary features interviews with her colleagues, friends, fellow Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, former students and African American scholars, priests and bishops. The film truly captures the joy of a faith life that was Sr. Thea.
On the website for her canonization, it is written: "Sister Thea Bowman’s life was always one of Gospel joy, enduring faith, and persevering prayer even in the midst of racial prejudice, cultural insensitivity, and debilitating illness. Her personal holiness witnessed to the faith and endurance of her ancestors, the hope expressed in the Spirituals, compassion for the poor and marginalized, her devotion to the Eucharist, and the radical love embodied by St. Francis of Assisi. Asked how she made sense of suffering, she answered, "I don’t make sense of suffering. I try to make sense of life…I try each day to see God’s will…" https://www.sistertheabowman.com/biography/
Throughout her life, she confronted racism and worked to desegregate every corner she touched. "She and her African American community faced white supremacy and racial injustices, and as an adult, she challenged the Church to see that all people, regardless of race or culture, could not only live and work together in harmony, but worship together as well. She taught us what it truly means to be a ‘catholic,’ or universal, Church." https://futurechurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/SISTER-THEA-BOWMAN-REWORKED.pdf
"We unite ourselves with Christ’s redemptive work when we reconcile, when we make peace, when we share the good news that God is in our lives, when we reflect to our brothers and sisters God’s healing, God’s forgiveness, God’s unconditional love."—Sr. Thea
Want to be renewed in your own faith, watch the documentary at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9oOa2iOwck
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 reading from the Prophet Malachi:
Lo, the day is coming, blazing
like an oven,
But for you who fear my name,
there will arise
While evil doers may prosper for a while, the faithful are strengthened by Malachi’s vision of God’s coming justice. With hope in that vision we do not give in to the despair and pessimism that might cause us to give up on ourselves, our world, and even our incomplete and wounded church. We especially do not give up on God.
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.
If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP:
Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars.
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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, 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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