“FIRST IMPRESSIONS “
16th SUNDAY (A)
July 23, 2017
Wisdom 12: 13, 16-19; Psalm 86; Rom 8: 26-27; Matthew 13: 24-30
by Jude Siciliano, OP
The 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sometimes even “experts” and people who should know better, just cannot predict how things are going to turn out. An “expert” evaluating a potential football coach said, “He possesses minimal football knowledge. Lacks motivation.” He was talking about Vince Lombardi, who “lacked motivation” – but was a winning coach and is in the Pro Hall of Fame. The Super Bowl trophy is named after him. He is still famous for saying, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Lacked motivation!?
A music teacher told Enrico Caruso’s parents that he had, “No voice at all.” It seems even parents can’t always judge their children’s abilities. Louisa May Alcott, who wrote “Little Women,” was encouraged by her parents to find work as a servant or seamstress. The casting director wrote after Fred Astaire’s screen test, “Can’t act, slightly bald, can dance a little.” Astaire had the memo framed over his fireplace. Hey, you never know!
A friend father has a 1200 acre farm in South Carolina. She was reflecting on today’s parable and said, “I left my father’s farm and went away to school. On a recent visit, early in the growing season, I looked at my father’s just-sprouting wheat and realized I couldn’t tell the weeds from the wheat. When they are sprouting they look alike until they ripen.” She added, “Not even my father, a wheat farmer, can tell them apart, at first. But at harvest wheat thrives and stands tall and the weeds droop.” (Maybe there is another parable about the Christian life in my friend’s observation – Christians will stand tall and weeds will droop.) The parable seems to be cautioning, “Don’t act too quickly. Don’t jump to conclusions. You never know.”
When you walk into a room and people are watching a baseball game, the tendency is to ask, “Who’s winning?” We don’t ask, “Who’s losing?” As much as we love baseball, if our team loses, we get over it. Life moves on. But we want to ask the same question about a more crucial issue. “What’s winning in the world, good or evil?” In the long run, “Who’s going to thrive, the good or the evil ones? Will there be a harvest of wheat, or will the weeds choke the life out of the good?”
For example, things don’t look like they are getting any better in this century than they were last century. I was reminded of one of the horrors of last century recently when I saw again the movie, “Schindler’s List.” It showed how one man cleverly saved 1,200 Jews during World War II. The film gives us something to cheer about. But still, 6 million died. Who is winning good or evil? This is not just an idle question about a ball game, is it?
The weeds are not just in the big wide world out there, they are much closer at hand, even within the church we love. Several years ago I thought, “I just can’t stand one more piece of news about clergy misconduct, or some bishop’s cover up of abuse! Even last week Australian Cardinal Pell, a close advisor to the Pope was charged with sexual crimes and cover ups! I am hoping he is innocent, but still with the servants of the household I want to ask, “Master, did you not sow good seed in you field? Where have the weeds come from?” Behind all these questions is the big one, “Will evil or good have the last word?”
The parable doesn’t give an easy answer. It doesn’t explain what’s happening: why evil exists; why there is suffering; why good gets corrupted; why the world messes up good kids? But at least it admits to the problem: good and evil co-exit, up close to one another and up close to our lives. They are intertwined and seem to be involved in a struggle for a final victory.
Weeds get into everything, even into the landscape of our own spiritual field. There definitely are times when we must make decisions about what is right and wrong. We do try to maintain standards and protections, especially for our children. Still, this is a parable that has something to say to our church and personal lives – especially when, in our enthusiasm, we are quick to judge, pull up, cast aside and give up: when we are quick to jump to conclusions about ourselves and our institutions; when we think we have all the evidence, but may not and are in no position to judge.
We do well to listen to the advise of the owner, who introduces a note of caution and a plea for patience. In effect, he is advising, “You do not really know enough to judge. All the evidence isn’t in yet.”
Jesus, the teller of the parable knew this from his own experience. He chose servants to do God’s work, yet early signs did not accurately forecast the future. Judas was the keeper of the purse and showed good skills for his position. He was a “mover and a shaker.” Peter, Mary Magdalen, Thomas and the rest, revealed early signs of failure, doubt and fear. Yet, he gave them a chance to grow and bear much fruit – and they did.
This is an encouraging parable for each of us. It is a story of grace, patience and hope. We look back on the mistakes we have made and are grateful we have had time to change; been able, with God’s help, to work things out. What used to be a weed, we were sure, turned out to be wheat. Suppose we had been judged back then, on the spot?
As we look and still see weeds in our lives and the lives of those around us, rather than being overcome by discouragement, the parable holds out hope for us. Good seed had been planted in us; it is growing. What’s more, the burden of the struggle isn’t ours alone. We can trust the Owner, who knows what is happening, to come to help us sort things out. If not now, then surely later – if the parable has any truth to it!
At its heart, this is a parable of confidence. God is in charge. God is not indifferent to our struggle. God is not unaware of what still needs doing. God is guiding us and the church in the process of bringing about a good harvest. We need to play this parable back in our imaginations, especially when things dismay and discourage us. We will look out at the field and think we know what is going on and what needs to be done. But we will hear this parable and the voice that says, “Not so fast. I have a plan, I can draw good out of this.”
Resurrection does not simply spell the survival of the soul, but requires the transformation of the world as we know it.
“Jesus: Miriam’s Child, Sophia’s Prophet”
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
…those who are just must be kind.
Wisdom 12: 19
Those who are deeply immersed in social justice issues sometimes have great difficulty with kindness. Seeing an injustice continue with no change regardless of how much one does to effect change can make one quite irritated, especially in our instant gratification society. But, as St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta states, “God doesn’t require us to succeed, but only requires that you try” and “God doesn’t ask that we succeed in everything, but that we are faithful.” Effort and faithfulness will win the day. And so the work must go on with kindness in our hearts.
One of the beautiful ministries in our area that is faithfully and kindly carried out by one of our parishioners is Meals on Wheels of Wake County. Jim Pucher writes, “I started volunteering at Meals on Wheels of Wake County about 3 years ago. I knew I would be delivering hot meals to those in need, but it turned out to be much more than just delivering meals…. It has become a very rewarding part of my life.
I was assigned a particular ‘route’ with somewhere around 8 meals to deliver each day that I do deliveries. . .This is a nice, balanced, and hot meal that usually includes a meat, vegetable, milk, juice, bread, and fresh fruit….many of these customers need these meals delivered due to their inability to cook for themselves. Maybe it is due to age, or disability or other personal issues. But regardless of the reason, they welcome getting at least this one hot meal per day during the week. But it is not just about delivering a hot meal….This is also an opportunity to ‘check in’ with these people once per day to make sure they are doing OK. If they don’t answer the door, or if they appear to need help, we can call the main office of Meals on Wheels to help.
Now these customers are almost like my neighbors. Over time I get to know them and it is a pleasure to help them in some way a few times a week. In dropping off a meal, in just saying ‘Hello’, and in checking up on them to make sure they are not in need of help.”
If you would like to learn more, go to: www.wakemow.org or to offer your help with Meals on Wheels of Wake County, contact Brenda Johnson at 919-390-3934.
Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries
Sacred Heart Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
16th SUNDAY (A) July 23, 2017
Wisdom 12: 13, 16-19; Psalm 86; Rom 8: 26-27; Matthew 13: 24-30
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:
“If you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until the harvest….”
We do well to listen to the advise of the owner, who introduces a note of caution and a plea for patience. In effect, he is advising, “You do not really know enough to judge right now. All the evidence isn’t in yet.”
So we ask ourselves:
Have I ever acted on the surety that I was right…only to be proven wrong later?
Did that lesson make me a more patient and kinder person? How?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
“The use of the death penalty cannot really be mended. It should be ended.”
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, “People of Faith Against the Death Penalty.” If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
Here is an inmate who can use some postcards and letters right now.
Gene Mc Curdy #K50300 3 EB 79
San Quentin Prison
San Quentin, CA 94975
—-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/
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- “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.
July 16, 2017
FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME…
“Let both the wheat and weeds grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” Matthew 13:30
In so many ways, these days of July fly by, and sooner than we think we will be asking ourselves, how can this happen. The Gospel for these summer days often call us to pay attention to the life around us. It also seems too, that we are called to pay close attention to the ongoing call to care for the earth & world around us.
For the hungry and the overfed, may we have enough.
For the mourners and the mockers, may we laugh together.
For the victims and the oppressors, may we share power wisely.
For the troubled and the sleek, may we live together as wounded healers.
In Matthew’s Gospel, as we reflect on Jesus’ parable of the sower and seed might we wonder about the kind of sower are we??? Do you ever think of what it might mean for us to be “good” soil? Believe it or not until the Parousia, the church will always be a mixed bag of good and evil; it should not play God by trying to justify itself completely through purges and Inquisitions… The definitive separation must be left to the last judgement; it is the church’s part to preach repentance and practice patience.
John P. Meier
‘Yet I shall temper so, Justice with Mercy’
Sr. Susan Bowles, SSMN
July 2, 2017
Reflection for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Kings 4: 8-11, 14-16 Roman 6: 3-4, 8-11 Mt.10: 37-42
I offered to write a reflection on this Sunday for two reasons: one, my brother Paul would have been 57 today for it is his birthday (he died at the age of 50) and second, because Paul was an example to me of what the gospel speaks to us today.
The first reading and the gospel speak of generosity. Paul was this type of person–always generous to his family, the people who came to him in his work, and others. Once he took our Dad to see the new Stadium of the Yankees in New York. My Dad said that Paul couldn’t pass a beggar without giving the person at least 5 dollars–and there were many beggars on the streets of New York. One doesn’t have to leave family to welcome all as family (yes, I know this is against the new policy on immigration).
To follow Christ is to take up the cross, and who doesn’t have one? But if one understands this, one carries the cross knowing that death is not the end. To live for Christ is to live into the Resurrection and then the cross is meaningful.
The woman in the first reading received new life from the baby she was to give birth to. Maybe we won’t receive a reward like the woman. But to be kind, generous and forgetful of oneself to gain Christ (which is truly the reward) is worthwhile. All one does, as St. Paul says, gives the glory to God.
Let us go forth and give all for the love of God. Nothing else matters.
Sister Rose Ann