Sunday, September 27, 2020

Following Jesus' Way


Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:  "What is your opinion?  A man had two sons.  He came to the first and said, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.'  He said in reply, 'I will not, ' but afterwards changed his mind and went.  The man came to the other son and gave the same order.  He said in reply, 'Yes, sir, ‘but did not go.  Which of the two did his father's will?"  They answered, "The first."  Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.  When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not  believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him."   Matthew 21: 28 - 32

 Once again, this Sunday. Jesus speaks to and teaches us through a parable.  Jesus uses the rich image of the vineyard to help us to understand His message. In Jesus’ time a vineyard would have been a prized possession, a sign of wealth.  He used the image to speak a profound message.   This parable is rather familiar to us as it is about two sons – one who obeys eventually and does his father’s will and the other who does not.  In this parable we are called to be like the first son who not only changed his mind, he also changed his heart.  We need to make choices and decisions that continue to help us to follow Jesus like the first son did.  We need to follow through on our intentions and remember that we have the ability to change.  May we always strive to walk in the light of Jesus and follow His call.

This week we encounter the angels and saints.  As we celebrate the Feast of St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael, the Archangels, the Feast of St. Jerome, the Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Feast of the Guardian Angels.  We have many intercessors watching out for us this week.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Focus on the Goal


This Sunday, the readings speak of the generosity of God and of God’s amazing closeness to and involvement in His creation. Paul urges us to live our lives in keeping with this Divine involvement. The Gospel forcefully reminds us that God grants His generosity to whomever He wills and that such an act on His part is not an injustice to others since no one can earn or really deserve any favor from God. All such favors are free gifts of God.

Have you ever watched a race where there us a runner who is in the lead and almost certain to win?  All of a sudden the runner looks back to see if anyone is close to catching up.  Without warning there is a runner suddenly gaining on him and ultimately passes him to win the race.  Do you ever wonder if the first runner lost the race because they looked back?  We could say that they lost due to taking the time to adjust their mind's focus on scanning what's behind them and then readjust in looking forward. Yet in reality they lost when they decided to take their eyes off of their goal to look at someone else’s lane.

A similar situation occurred with the workers of today's gospel. Some of them became upset because the other workers labored for less hours and endured less sun than they did. What would have happened if they had not learned about the other workers' wages? Would they have also been upset? They may have been content with the agreed wage. Why do we compare our lives and our blessings to others? When we do, we may find ourselves glad and thankful with some parts of our lives, but in others, envious and resentful, and maybe even resentful of God.  

We are called to accept God's will, to be thankful for the way God provides, to trust that He is all knowing and all good, and therefore knows what's best for each one of us.   This is where the challenge comes in as we try and live this way each day.  Yet we are not alone, our God is always there for us and with us.  May we always remember to pray for others and ourselves, to think well of others and wish them only happiness and peace and above all be patient with one another during these turbulent times.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Forgive One Another


Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?  As many as seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.  That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.   Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.  At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’  Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.   When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount.   He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’  Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’  But he refused.  Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt.   Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.  His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.  Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.  So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35.

Each time I hear this Gospel it causes me to pause and reflect.  We are called to forgive others and allow God’s abundant love to transform us.  If we are able to let go of our past wounds we are able to become freer to love and live in the image and likeness of God.  As Christians we are all called to love Jesus and to love like Him. It's a beautiful and challenging invitation put before each and every one of us. We are given this opportunity not because we have done good deeds but solely because of God's great love and mercy. Likewise, when we have the opportunity to turn the other cheek, to forgive, to tell the truth, to honor each other, to choose life, we are accepting Jesus' invitation.

Our lives and times are full of opportunities to forgive and to help others to do the same.  If each one of us took the opportunity to relish God’s love and share it with others our world would be a better place.  If we reach out to one another and continue to pay if forward people would experience the love and mercy of our God.  Let us pray for an openness to the Holy Spirit in our lives, for “only the Spirit by whom we live can make ‘ours’ the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Love One Another


Jesus said to his disciples:  “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18: 15 - 20

In this gospel reading, Jesus teaches his followers how to go about reconciling issues within the community. He begins with, “if another member of the community sins against you…” and then goes on to give some specific steps to bring about reconciliation.

Reconciliation is about regaining members of the community.  The process of reconciliation is about unity rather than guilt, blame, shame or getting even.  This Gospel reminds us of the importance of our relationships with one another.  As I read this Gospel I was reminded of my childhood.  Growing up as the youngest of four I remember the fights and arguments we had.  Our parents always encouraged us to settle things among ourselves.  It wasn’t always easy but we did it.  We always settled and were once again unified.

Our Gospel calls us to approach those who wronged us with love and acceptance.  We are called to make reparation for the times when we have caused harm.  This is the foundation of our faith and invites us deeper into the presence of God.  Let us always seek to gather in the presence of God.