Once again, look at the connection between the Old Testament and the New. Ezekiel gives a metaphor of God as the Great Shepherd. He cares for His sheep and separates the sheep from the goats. In Matthew’s account for today, Jesus’ describes Himself as the Good Shepherd.
Jesus is clearly telling us of the end of times when, as He Himself says, “"When the Son of Man comes in his glory…all the nations will be assembled before him.” Everyone who has ever lived from the beginning of time will be raised up to appear before Him in what the Church refers to as the General Judgment. The good who will inherit eternal life, the wicked; eternal punishment.
The good are symbolized as sheep. Sheep are docile animals. They listen to their Master’s voice and follow him. They flock together. The wicked are the goats; stubborn. They have refused to follow God’s will. So on His right hand are the sheep and on his left are the goats. To the sheep He says, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Salvation is that freely given gift; a blessing. The goats fail. They are cursed. “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Now, at this final judgment, you may expect Jesus to say something like, “enter into Heaven you who believed in me, you who had faith and followed me. He doesn’t mention the sins of adultery, theft, murder, etc… (although these are truly sins which will be counted against us if we do not repent). Jesus moves more towards the corporal works of mercy as criteria for eternal life. Works that deal with how we love our neighbor and in effect, by loving our neighbor, how we love God. Jesus doesn’t lean on the sins we commit, but the things we omit; not doing the acts of charity placed before us. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, you do unto me.” A concept of the Mystical Body of Christ of which we all belong.
What do we do to enter into the Kingdom of Eternal life? We treat each other as we would treat Jesus. What do we do to be included among the goats? We refuse to love. We choose to not treat others as we would treat Jesus. So, God doesn’t put us in Hell, we choose to separates ourselves from God.
In Ezekiel, God says that, “I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so I will tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.”
Now get the connection between the Old and New Testament. What is the cloudy and dark day of Ezekiel? Good Friday, when the sky turned dark as Christ pays the price and offers all his sheep salvation, the free gift which we accept or reject.
In our day and time, a lot of people do not believe in Hell or Heaven. With secularism, agnosticism and atheism on the rise the first thing to go is the spirituality of the life outside ourselves: Heaven and Hell. Without a concept of eternity, the manner in which you live your life is completely changed. Many of us overlook what is a sin as something that older generations saw as sin and accept a lifestyle contrary to the faith.
This passage is Jesus’ take on Heaven and Hell. Jesus is giving us today, His last public teaching from which the Church offers its official teaching on Eternal life or death.
In paragraph #1033 of the Catechism, we read about Hell. “We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death…. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice. Definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."
And finally, from the same passage we have today, the Church tells us about Heaven. Paragraph # 1023 in the Catechism informs that, “Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live forever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they "see him as he is," face to face… and will be…in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels.
We all see Heaven as eternal life, but listen; last week, the Master told the good stewards, “Well done good …. servants, enter into my Father’s joy” When was the last time you experienced complete and overwhelming joy? The birth of a child? Your wedding? It was great but it didn’t last. This is Heaven; eternal life living in eternal joy.
Heaven is real; Hell is real. It is our choice. We spend so much time working hard to prepare to make a living. Work harder on your soul to prepare a life in Heaven. I hope I make it into the sheep line, not the goat line.
When you go on vacation, is there someone that you trust enough to watch your house, pick up your mail and report anything suspicious? Maybe there is someone that you trust enough to give them a key to your home and babysit your dogs; but who would you trust enough to put in charge of your checking, your savings and your 401K while you’re gone? In the Gospel story, this is exactly what the master does with his servants!
When the master entrusts his talents with his servants, this is a huge vote of confidence in them! In the Bible days, a talent was a unit of measurement of precious metals, like silver or gold and was equal to about 75lbs. At today’s market price, an ounce of gold is $1,981.00. Times 75 pounds, this would equal $2,377,200.00! Even the servant given just one talent was given a huge sum of money!
So, what do the servants bring to the table? Nothing! In the same way, you and I come to the Lord empty handed, bringing nothing but our poverty of spirit, which Jesus says, enables us to inherit the Kingdom of God. In the sacrament of Confirmation, the Lord entrusts us with something more precious than gold. He entrusts us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit for service.
We hear that the servants were each given the talents according to their individual ability to invest. This is the master setting them up for success. Jesus is always setting us up for success. St. Paul says the charisms of the Holy Spirit are given to each one of us according to His will, not our will. The only time we fail is when we do it according to how we will.
When I first became a deacon, some 10 years ago, I had grand designs of how I would change the Church, which only ended in frustration, until I heard God’s gentle message: “Tim, your role is small; my role is big”. I’ve had nothing but peace of mind in my ministry ever since.
We are expected to discern what our gifts are and get busy investing our time, talent and treasure in the kingdom. But, how do we discern this and what does it look like? Your ministry is within the circles that you already live in. Our mission field is our school, our families, with our friends and in the workplace.
Today and not some other day, God is calling us to stand up and begin fulfilling our mission. Let us pray: “Jesus, thank you for the talents you have given me. I will go, I will work and I will invest in your kingdom.”
10 Virgins. Five wise/five foolish. Everything Jesus tells us has a meaning. The light of the lambs is the mark of our Baptism. Recall at the Sacrament of Baptism, there is a candle which is lit from the Easter Candle. “Receive the light of Christ. Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly so that your children, enlightened by Christ, may walk always as children of the light and, persevering in the faith, may run to meet the Lord when he comes with all the Saints in the heavenly court.” We receive our salvation by Baptism, we are claimed by Christ and incorporated into the Church. Don’t let the light go out.
The oil in the lamps? Those are the things we do to fuel our light, to maintain our salvation. Attending Mass, the Spiritual and Corporal works of Mercy, loving God and others.
Anything we do well in life takes work. Carrying our cross and keeping our lights fueled are no exceptions. How do I do this work? How do I start? How do I continue?
The story is told of a man who was morbidly obese; hundreds of pounds overweight and his life in danger. He seeks the help of a physician. The physician took his case and after an examination and questioning, he laid out a plan for his patient.
This week, I want you to stand up from the couch. That’s it. Stand up every day. After standing up once, the man decided to stand up twice, then three times. He not only succeeded, he exceeded his expectation. Next week, I want you to walk to the door. That’s it. Stand up and walk to the door every day. After a one time try, the man did it several times. He exceeded. On the third week, walk to the elevator and push the button to the floor of your building where you’ve told me there is a gym. That’s it. Stand up, walk to the door, and take the elevator to the gym. After several trips to the gym, the man walked to the exercise bike and just sat there. Fourth week, do the above but peddle the bike for 1 minute. The man began to peddle for 2, 3, 5 minutes. Slowly, the man increased his activity. Slowly the man lost weight. He had not only succeeded; he had exceeded his expectations.
If you are not doing anything spiritually to build up the oil in your lamp outside of Mass once a week, which is great, here is the path to increasing a good spiritual life to benefit yourself, others and prepare yourself for the Bridegroom to arrive.
The first day, sit in a chair when you get up in the morning and just say, “thank you, God”. Soon you’ll find that you stay there for 2, 3, 5 minutes. You will succeed. You will exceed. Get a good Catholic book. If you don’t know where to find a good Catholic book, go to any search engine on your computer and type in “Good Catholic Book”. Before you go to sleep, read one page. You’ll find that you will soon read 2, 3, 5 pages. Do one good deed and you’ll see 2, 3, 5 good deeds. One minute more, one page more, incremental growth.
A vice is a bad habit; a virtue is a good habit. Habits are slowly acquired but must also be slowly removed. The obese man did not lose his weight quickly. A good spiritual life cannot be build overnight.
Incrementally, build up the oil you need to keep that light from your Baptism burning because the Bridegroom will come when he is not expected. Be wise. Don’t be foolish
For several weeks we heard Jesus address the leaders of the Jewish faith and how they were wrong. Parable after parable. Today, he addresses the leaders again. Do as I say, not as I do. Jesus is telling His followers to be submissive to the teachers of the Old Testament. They do teach the truth but they are not practicing. This is Jesus’ great pet peeve:” hypocrisy. Jesus is giving His followers an example of hypocritical actions. Secondly, Jesus is showing how the Jewish leaders brag and show off: “They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi.'”
All of us are made in the image and likeness of God. No one is better; no one is less. As a priest, please don’t put us on a pedestal. Movie stars, governmental leaders, millionaires; all the same. We do not seek the praise of men, but the praise of God. The Jewish leaders were mainly (not all, but many) seeking human praise.
Now comes the famous passage: call no man father. But right before this, Jesus says call no one rabbi (teacher) and then call no one master (our English word mister is derived from master). The purpose of the entire teaching is. “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted." The point, we are to be humble, servant leaders, not to exalt oneself over everyone else but to serve others. Remember, Jesus said He came not to be served but to serve.
Those against the Church pull this one statement out of context; call no man father. This verse must be seen in its immediate context and the context of the entire passage, chapter and book.
- In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus uses hyperbole (Ex.: if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off) Jesus is speaking of the radical nature of following God.
- In Acts:7, St. Stephen, the first martyr, calls the Jewish elders fathers in respect and also calls Abraham
- 1 Corinthians: 4, Paul calls himself father. “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.”
- John in his first letter, he addresses the leaders of his congregation as fathers.1 John 2:13-14 “I am writing to you fathers because you know Him Who is from the beginning.’
The result is that Jesus did not command that we not use the word father, teacher, master, but in a manner of hyperbole, He is teaching us humility.
In the Christian life, there are different calls, but not different classes. The Father assigns differing roles, but has the same love for each of His children. Thus the question is not, “How can I rise above?” but “Who can I humbly serve?” In the best marriages, spouses put each other first. Priests, brothers and religious sisters do this. We are last, you are first. My responsibility is a priority for you, my parish. Not just Catholics, but every human within the boundaries of Nativity’s parish.
The priesthood, the monastic life, the life of a religious sister. All are needed. Out of this entire parish we have only 3 religious: myself and 2 deacons. Yet, there are many to be met. How many people could we help, could you help? The Master is calling us and each of us have a specific vocation in this world. That vocation is the way we work out our salvation to get back to our place of origin; Heaven.
Is it difficult to be a religious? Ask if it is difficult to be married, to be a parent, to be a contractor, teacher, electrician. There are many instruments in the orchestra and each has its own specific difficulty in its execution. But someone has to lead for everyone to stay together.
Jesus is our leader and we all should live our lives to point to him so that we all stay together.
A priest? A religious sister? A monk? Not easy but necessary. Listen closely to God and use the wisdom of your Confirmation to discern the way He is calling you.
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Early on, the Jews had the idea of reducing the Ten Commandments into these two categories. The first tablet of the commandments refers to our relationship with God, the second tablet refers to love of neighbor.
From Deuteronomy: 6 we get to love God. Jesus then adds Leviticus: 19 for love of Neighbor. The Jews recited the prayer from Deuteronomy: 6 three times a day: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.” This is called the Shema. Jesus is adding the love of neighbor as a completion of the law. Remember, Jesus came to perfect the law; not to change the law.
By memorizing and reciting the Shema 3 times a day, it shapes your life. It gives it meaning and direction; the way you live each day. It’s hard to go through a stretch of time and not keep God in your sights. So, morning, noon and night, the Shema was the centering of one’s life. It's difficult to live your life in opposition to God and recite 3 times to love God with all your heart; with all your soul.
When people start to live their lives in disobedience to God, the first thing to go is prayer. When a priest goes to the bishop to ask to leave, the first question asked by some is, “when did you stop saying your prayers?”
Love of God and neighbor are the basis of our faith, but remember, it all starts with the individual. How can you love your neighbor as yourself if you don’t love yourself? How can you really, truly love God if you don’t love yourself? Many of us sell ourselves short when it comes to loving ourselves. I am ugly. I am not that smart. I always say the wrong thing in public. I handle social meetings awkwardly. My hair is not right. I’m fat. I’m too skinny. Sound familiar? And if you say these things to yourself long enough, you tend to believe them.
There is a legend of a Golden Buddha. As the legend goes, invading hordes were closing in on a Buddhist monastery. They processed a solid gold Buddha. To protect the statue from being stolen, the monks covered the statue in a thick coating of mud and let it dry. Unfortunately, all the monks were killed. No one was available to pass on the truth of the statue.
Eventually other monks came to reside at the monastery. The statue was to be moved. One monk saw a very small crack in the lining and saw a glowing light from inside. With chisels and hammers, the thick coat of mud was removed to reveal the true golden statue of incalculable worth.
Each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God. God doesn’t make junk, but we can convince ourselves that we are less than what God has made us to be.
We cover our true selves up in order to hide ourselves from the misplaced comments which we might have taken wrong. We encapsulate ourselves in order to protect ourselves from things that have bothered or hurt us in the past. And, in covering ourselves up, we have hidden the true self; the beautiful self which God has made. We had the best of intentions at hand; to protect ourselves. But in doing so, we have made ourselves more difficult to approach, more difficult to love and more difficult to share our beauty with others.
Each one of us is made from love, to be loved, to love God and each other. Each one of us is a resplendent, shining reflection of God’s love to the world. Each one of us is meant to glow with the love of the Father and to share ourselves with one another. But remember, first, love yourself. You are good enough to be loved by the greatest Lover of all time; Almighty God.
At the time of Jesus, Rome had invaded, conquered and now was occupying Israel. There were those who hated the Romans for this including the Pharisees. There were also those who cooperated with the Romans. They saw benefit through the Roman occupation. One such group was the Herodians.
Now you would think that the Pharisees wouldn’t have much to do with the Herodians since each was on the opposite side of the issue. Well, the Pharisees saw that in joining together with the Herodians, they would be able to entrap Jesus in a very clever way.
Representatives from the two groups came together and posed the question to Jesus about paying the Roman tax imposed upon the Israelites. They asked Jesus if it was alright to pay a census tax to the Romans. Neither group was really looking for an answer, they were trying to catch Jesus; to put an end to this trouble maker.
The Pharisees resented the fact that the Romans had made Caesar a god. The coin had the graven image (the emperor) impressed upon it but even more, the lettering on the coin said , “......the emperor the ‘son of god”. The present Caesar’s father was divinized as a god and so his son, now the present Caesar is declared as “the son of god”. However, the Jews needed to have these coins to trade with the occupiers; the Romans. If Jesus said to pay the Census tax, then He would be aligning himself with Rome and show himself as a non-supporter of the Jewish people.
However, if He said to not pay the tax, then He would be demonstrating to the Herodians that He was a troublemaker who did not wish to follow Roman law. Either answer would have been bad for Jesus. It was a very clever situation laid out to entrap Jesus. But Jesus saw through their cunning and out-foxed those who were out to get Him. Jesus didn’t answer yes or no. He refused to take sides in the argument and in a very ingenious way he turned the entire scene upside down and directed the minds and hearts of all those present towards the true God.
Since the money to pay the Census tax had the image of Caesar imprinted on it and that the money was used to pay the tax for Caesar; then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God, what belongs to God.
It is easy to see what belongs to Caesar in this story, his picture was on the coin. But what belongs to God? We know that God creates everything, so in a manner of speaking, we should give all to Almighty God……. but the most precious thing that we give to God is our very selves. Think about it, we mortals are made in the image and likeness of God; we have the image of God imprinted on us. There is the denotation that we should give ourselves back to God.
Man possesses money by holding onto it. God possesses us by loving us. One cannot love money (or at least we shouldn’t). The important item here is that God loves us and we love God and in that love, we belong to God. He made us. He designed us. He is with us always.
St. Thomas Aquinas puts it in these terms: Exitus/Reditus. We come from, or exit from God and are made to return to God. And we won’t be completely happy until we return to God.
But Jesus doesn’t dismiss what belongs to Caesar and He doesn’t dismiss what belongs to God. He grants a usage and a place for both money and ourselves in the world. We live in the world and must deal with the world albeit as Christians. Money is necessary for life in this world. We have to procure money to provide for our needs. There is a time and a place for everything
Yet there are some of us that put money ahead of everything else; saving more than they will ever need and sometimes ignoring the needs of others in order to hold on to more money.
Having money isn’t a sin. Being rich is not sinful. But making money as the most important thing, even more important than God. Well, there’s a problem there.
In Jesus’ statement of giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God, what belongs to God, He demonstrates the nature of our existence; we live in the world, we must deal with the world, but our end is not in the world, rather it is in Heaven with God for all eternity.
While in this world, we are called to be good citizens. That includes paying necessary taxes to support the needs of the community. We are to conduct ourselves as beneficial members of our community and contribute to the workings of the community for its own sake.
But while we live in this world, we are to remember we are not of this world. A Christian must live out their life as an example of what God wants us to be; to keep ourselves separate from the evils of the world and to walk each moment as a child of God.
Father Jerry Strange
Last week, Jesus delivered the parable of the Bad Tenants caring for the Vineyard. Combined with this parable, Jesus immediately relates the parable we have today. Again, as presented together, this is the last parable before Jesus’ suffering and death, The parable of the Wedding Banquet
Again, the Old Testament reading is directly related to the Gospel. Isaiah speaks of a great banquet. The Jews had an image of the Great Heavenly Banquet of God; the Messianic Banquet. There are several items to note in Isaiah’s writing. First, the banquet of which Isaiah speaks is a universal banquet. “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples…” A banquet, not just for the Jews, but for everyone. Secondly, this banquet is a supernatural banquet; a saving banquet because at this banquet, death itself will be swallowed up. “he will destroy death forever.” As Isaiah says. "Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom we looked…" Today, Jesus is speaking of that Heavenly banquet;
Suppose you receive an invitation from the Queen of England to a royal wedding feast. The social event of the season. You know the food and drinks would be good, and you are assured of having a great time. Would you throw the invitation in the trash without even an RSVP?
Jesus’ banquet is, indeed a Royal wedding banquet and those invited turn it down for frivolous reasons. Work on the farm? Continue with my business? Some ignore the invitation all together; just toss it in the trash. Some go so far as to actually kill the messengers. (Remember last week, the prophets who constantly invited God’s people were mistreated, stoned and killed?)
So here is the twist in the parable; the king traces down the offenders and kills them; burns down their property. Would you kill the postman who brought you the invitation? AND, if you didn’t respond, would you expect the person holding the banquet to come to your house, kill you? Burn down your house.
But Jesus is referring to the banquet of God. This is no ordinary king; no ordinary banquet. Today’s parable is the wedding feast of the King’s son.! God is the King; Jesus is the Son; the Son who swallows up death! This banquet is Heaven; life eternal. The refusal to come is actually death. Hell. Another twist. Would you then invite anyone you could find to fill the seats at your banquet?
God invites everyone the Heaven. Jesus died and paid the price due to sin, unlocked the Gates of Heaven which were locked up by the sin of Adam. Everyone can get in; get back to the Garden. We decide whether we will attend or not.
Finally, yet another twist. Everyone is invited but someone shows up without a wedding garment. He is bound and tossed “into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. “For the Chief priests, the outer darkness, grinding of teeth would be a clear reference to Hell.
But does Jesus sound just for tossing someone out of the banquet just for not wearing a wedding garment? No. Our wedding garment is the garment of our Baptism, have we not brought to the feast of Heaven at least our Baptism? If not a Baptism of water, at least a Baptism of desire? That “wedding garment” can be taken off. The salvation we gain from our Baptism can be lost, rejected by sin. By repentance, confession, we regain the “garment of Baptism, our salvation.
I need to hold on to my wedding garment so that I’ll be prepared to enter the banquet when my invitation appears.
Deacon Tim Conley
If you wanted to have a really great party, who are the kinds of people you would invite? People you’ve never met, or the people who are most important to you? Do you invite the “Debbie and Danny Downers”, or do you invite people who are upbeat and fun? You can serve great food and have great music but the key to a great party are the kinds of people you invite and the right mix of personalities.
When a king throws a wedding party for his son, it is done on a grand scale! The best food is prepared by the best chefs. The liquor is top shelf. A famous rock band provides awesome music. Imagine the king’s representative knocks on your door and offers you an invitation. Would you excitedly and gratefully say “yes”; considering it a once in a life-time opportunity? Would you put all else on your schedule on hold and find a way to make it? Or would you tell the messenger you’re too busy because your kid has a soccer game and shut the door? What do you think the king’s reaction would be if it came to his attention that you blew off his invitation?
If we are honest with ourselves, wouldn’t we have to admit that we’ve all had our times of blowing off our King’s invitation to fellowship with him? If it were not true, why at the beginning of each Mass do we say: “I confess to Almighty God, that I have greatly sinned,…”? Isn’t it wonderful to know that in that confession of venial sin, we are reconciled to the Father and invited once again, to the banquet of his Son’s body and blood? In the case of mortal sin, our king restores friendly relations with us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Because the Jewish people rejected the invitation of their heavenly king, we gentiles have been invited to the banquet. We are the “good and bad” God’s messengers go out into the streets to find. Today, our Lord and King is looking for a people who will respond to his invitation with gratitude. He is the Father who is always welcoming us back from our “prodigal” moments.
Jesus is saying: “I stand at the door and knock. If any man will hear my voice and open the door, I will come into him and sup with him and he with me.” If we’ve made the mistake of thinking anything else is more important than this invitation, we can ask for His forgiveness now and say “yes” to sitting down with Him and dining at the banquet of His fellowship.
The context for today’s Gospel is the same as last week’s story of the two sons. Jesus is still in the
Temple speaking to the leaders and elders of the faith. Jesus is still throwing out an indictment of those
leaders who should know better but reject the truth.
The Old Testament Reading and the New Testament reading are really about the same thing; the
faithfulness of those in regard to God.
Jesus uses Isaiah’s allegory of the vineyard, written 800 years earlier, to bring it into His time on earth. Every 1 st century Jew would be familiar with wine as a common drink and the abundance of vineyards in the country. The characters and elements of Isaiah’s story are the Owner (God), the vineyard, (the people of Israel AND the city of Jerusalem). But try as they might, the grapes produced are wild. What else could God have done? He prepared the land, built a watchtower, surrounded the vineyard with a fence and provided workers but no good grapes are grown. God has done all this for His people, but they produce wild grapes meaning disobedience and disregard for the Lord. Where are the true followers who would be producing good grapes; good works? In frustration, the Lord destroys the fruitless effort and washes His hands of the entire act.
Now Jesus represents the allegory in a parable. God is the owner of the vineyard. The vineyard are the Israelites and Jerusalem. The authorities of the vineyard are the leaders of the faith. The servants are the prophets, who were all persecuted for telling the truth. The explanation may even depict certain prophets. The servant killed is probably Isaiah who was killed by being sawn in two for his truthful messages. The servant stoned may be Jeremiah who cried out, “repent or your city will be destroyed”. Jeremiah survived many attempts on his life but was finally stoned to death.
Every parable has a twist. The twist in this parable is the fact that if they treated the servants so badly, who in their right mind would send their son to be placed in such peril? Jesus is setting up the soon to be fulfilled reality of His suffering, death and resurrection. In the parable, the son is cast out of the vineyard. Remember, Jesus was cast out of Jerusalem; crucified outside the gates of the city. As the vineyard had a wall around it and a watch tower so did the city of Jerusalem have both. Isaiah condemns the unrighteous and Jesus does also. And so Jesus is telling the leaders that He will give the vineyard, the care of the faith to others. The Israelites are to be in a covenant with God, but the covenant has been broken, but not by God.
Not in today’s reading, but the next part of the passage we can read Jesus’ words that say, “the stone rejected had become the head of the corner”. Jesus is quoting psalm 118 one of the Hallel psalms chanted during Passover. EVERYONE KNEW THE WORDS AND THE MELODY. The psalm is also a prophecy of the Messiah’s coming to save. The image here is the stone who is the Messiah. The prophecies say the Messiah will rebuild a new Temple and a new Jerusalem. Jesus is saying Jerusalem (the vineyard) will be destroyed. Jesus never directly says He will destroy the Temple but the illusion comes when He says, “tear down this Temple and in 3 days it will be rebuilt.”
And indeed Jerusalem was destroyed, the Temple destroyed and never rebuilt because Jesus is now the Temple and we live in a new Jerusalem which contains the tabernacle not made by human hands.
In today’s Gospel, one son says he’ll do what his father asks him to do…. but doesn’t follow through with action. The other son says he will not obey his father, but does go ahead and follow through, doing the will of his father. We are told that the son that actually did the work obeyed the father in the long run.
If I told you that I loved you------that would be nice. But if I showed you that I loved you, then that would really be a stronger method of communicating my feelings. Today, in the Gospel, we are told that the son who actually did the father’s will was applauded. It's not enough to say we believe in Jesus Christ, we must demonstrate, in our actions, that we are truly followers of Jesus; that we really do what Jesus asked us to. Anyone can say they’re Christians but the proof is in how we live out our vocations in the world.
The setting for this parable is found in previous verses of John. Jesus is in the Temple speaking to the leaders regarding the elders’ reaction to the message of John, the Baptist’s Baptism of repentance. The first son refers to the prostitutes and sinners who at first, literally said “no” to God, but then they changed their ways to live a virtuous life. The second son is ascribed to the chief priests and the elders who rejected the Baptist’s message and do not repent, but SEEM to be living a virtuous life.
This is an indictment of the leaders who reject repentance; an indictment that carries over to the rejection of the leaders even of Jesus, the Son of God; the Christ. They are not listening, and do not turn to repentance. the twist of the parable is that those less likely to repent do so while the supposedly “learned” scholars of the people overlook the message of repentance.
This message of repentance is a mainstay of the prophets of the Old Testament; a call to turn from sin. Then the greatest of all earthly prophets, John the Baptist carries forward the same message. Finally, Jesus, the Son of God fulfills the prophets and those who should know because of the scriptures and practices of the faith reject the good.
Am I a Christian that merely says, “yes Lord”, or am I Christian who actually does what a Christian should do by my actions?
If I were to stand here and tell you that I loved you and never demonstrated my love for you in action, you would have every right to call me a liar and a hypocrite. Which would you rather me do, to say I’ll get you a drink of water and not follow through, or actually bring you a glass of water?
Actions speak louder than words. The most important things Jesus did while He was on earth was His crucifixion, His suffering and death and His resurrection. If we read the biblical accounts of these works of Jesus, we find that Jesus said very few words. He demonstrated His love for us, He didn’t just tell us about it.
And people do notice how we act. If I am polite to someone…. people notice. If I go to Mass during the week…. people notice. If I am generous…. people notice. If I am nice…. people notice. However, If I am rude to someone…. people notice. If I am disrespectful…. people notice. If I am mean ……. people notice.
There are many people in the world who seldom, if ever will pick up a Bible and read it. The most compelling evidence for Christianity is not words in a book or even words spoken, it’s how Christianity is lived out by those who say they are Christians. Can people tell that I am a Christian by the way I act, by the way I carry myself, by the things I do in public
Being a Disciple of Christ; being a Christian is not a spectator sport. By our human nature we tend toward the easy path; we want to drift through life and enjoy the good things of it. But because of the Incarnation, our souls are awakened to the reality that we are called to be workers in the vineyard of the Lord.
Man is defined in many scientific ways. Homosapien means rational man. That’s true. That’s what sets us apart from every other animal. Then there is homo faber. Man fabricator or worker with tools. Yes, we have the ability to change our environment and surroundings by making items. But in regards to Christianity, we see ourselves as homo adorans or worshiping man.
As creations of God, homo adorans is our most complete definition. Our purpose in life? To know, love and serve God in this world so as to be happy with Him in the next. Everyone is called to worship God by love, service and learning about God and as a result to build up the Kingdom of God.
The highest form of worship is the celebration God has given us; the Mass. The word Mass comes from the Latin missiomeaning mission. The Mass feeds us and “fills up our tanks” as we offer back to God the perfect worship He gave to us.
But most of us are homo adorans once a week. We have to remember that one hour a week doesn’t cut it. We must worship God every day, and every part of every day. In this, we live out our true relationship with God and our neighbors. We cannot leave the worship at the door of the church; it has to go with us.
This is what Jesus is doing with the people around him in today’s parable. They and we are not to stand around idle all day, but to be active in the vineyard of the Lord. Working in the vineyard fulfills what God told Adam. From the beginning God wanted us to work in His garden/vineyard and even after the Fall, God graciously blessed mankind to work within the fallen world for the glory of God and the dignity of man. We Depend Upon God for Everything. I cannot stop my heart, nor my breathing. God has set the limits on the length of my days. Plain and simple, I am vulnerable, weak, and in need of God’s activity in my life. Sometimes it takes a great pain; a great cross, to awaken the mind and heart as to what is important, what is the purpose of this life. The Lord knows me better than I know myself and it has taken years to realize that when life is easy, I get idle – LAZY about doing the tasks assigned in the vineyard.
Today, the parable speaks of wages. All of us are actually working for the same wage; the Kingdom of Heaven. The mercy of God is so vast! Some of us see the continuous working and worshiping of God early in our lives, others in the “mid-day” of our lives. While still others finally get it at the “dusk” of our lives.
God, in His infinite mercy, will accept what we are able to give Him and some of us won’t see past the church door. But God is grateful for what you ARE doing. But, we can all move towards being the homo adoarans who works throughout the entire “day” of our life worshiping and working for God. Whatever we do, we can be doing it for the honor and glory of God.
And in His mercy; it is never too late. We can turn to the work and adoration of God at any time even unto our last breath. Even in this last second, we all receive the same wage; Heaven.
In last week’s Gospel, we learned how to correct someone. Individual reproach, then take a witness, then take the error to the Church. Fraternal correction, correction done out of love for your sister or brother is a great gift to someone who, perhaps doesn’t even know they are stepping out of bounds. This week we learn about forgiveness when a brother or sister hurts us.
The Old Testament again, is mirrored in the New Testament. In Genesis, we hear of the 7-fold vengeance of Cain. Here, today we have the 7-fold forgiveness. Peter asks Christ how many times he must forgive someone, 7 times? Jesus says no seventy times. Our lectionary is taken from the New American translation. In the Revised Standard translation, there is a better translation of the Greek which reads seven times seventy or 490 times. In the Book of Daniel, God utilizes the number 490 as the period of time it will be for Israel to be have to atone for its sins until the ultimate day of forgiveness; the mercy given to us by Christ who suffers and dies to wipe out sins. 490 years pass from Daniel to Jesus’s redemptive suffering.
Seven is the number of perfection for the Jews. It took six days to create the earth and it is sealed in perfection by the seventh day of rest and viewing what has been created. 77 or 490 times, either way forgiveness is exorbitant. We are reminded that God forgives over and over and over; He is exorbitant in His mercy. The Lord’s prayer reminds us God forgives our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. We are to be as merciful as God.
Then Jesus uses a parable to describe the reality of forgiveness to His followers. The parable of the Unmerciful Servant we hear today.
So, there is a servant who owes, as our New American translation puts it, a great deal of money, to the king. Again, the Revised Standard version spells the amount out more clearly. The servant owes 10,000 talents. One talent is equaled to 6000 denarii. A denarius is a day’s wage. 10,000 talents would take the servant 160,000 years of labor to pay off his debt. We’re about 2000 years from Jesus’ death. The servant would still need 140,000 years to go. But the king forgives in an exorbitant way just as our King, Jesus forgives in an exorbitant way.
This servant goes to another servant who owes much less; only 100 denarii or 100 days of work. But his debt is not overlooked and his is not forgiven and is placed in prison. 1st century Jewish prisons were basically for those who could not pay their debts. An individual was kept until a family member or friend paid their debt. Harsh crimes would have an immediate death penalty and imprisonment was not necessary. So basically there was a “debtor’s prison” situation.
Indignation follows from the observers and the king says, “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? “
In the parable, there is a striking contrast to the amount of debt and the amount of mercy, or forgiveness. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. There will not be a physical, but rather a spiritual prison in which we place ourselves when we are also unmerciful servants.
The reading today from Sirach tells us, “Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
remember the Most High's covenant, and overlook faults.
The last day could be today on your way home. Forgive and settle with your neighbor now.
Last week, we heard Peter’s confession. Who do people say I am? And Peter says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Good for you Peter. You didn’t get this from other men, you got this from God Himself. So Jesus says to Peter, you are the Rock and I will build my church upon you. Peter, the first Pope is given the keys of authority; to bind up and loose. Today, in the very next verses of the Gospel from last week, Jesus lays out what is going to happen: He will suffer and die. But Peter, impetuously jumps in to rebuke the one he claims to be the Son of God. Peter tells Jesus, “Let me tell you how it is going to be” Peter has the audacity to tell God what to do!
Jesus called Peter the Rock. Peter has been given a grand title. But now, Jesus renames him as Satan who is the very adversary of Jesus and God’s people. Get behind me; you are a hindrance to me. The Greek for hindrance is “scandalon” from which we have the English word “scandal”. The original meaning of “scandalon” is a rock you stumble over; a rock you trip over when you walk. Peter is the rock of faith when he confesses Christ as the Messiah, but now he is a rock that just gets in the way and causes people to trip. Now, Peter is opposed to the suffering and death of Jesus. and subsequently states opposition to the Resurrection which must be brought about by Jesus’ death. The Messiah has come into our lives to save the world by suffering. Not by war, fighting, arguing, but suffering. Peter is saying that God’s manner of saving the world is wrong.
Many of us stop at “get behind me Satan.” But there is much more in Matthew’s Gospel. The conflict now brings about the opportunity for Jesus to dive deeper into the meaning of his mission of suffering, death and resurrection along with a deep discussion of what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus. He tells us that discipleship and suffering go together.
First, Jesus gives the Apostles the conditions of discipleship. You must deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Me. In today’s world, we mostly think of discipleship as accepting the believes of Jesus’ teachings; a disciple is a believer. But, Jesus never calls His followers believers, but rather disciples. The Greek for disciple means student; a learner. A student doesn’t just believe what he is taught, he follows and imitates the Master; you act like him, walk with him. So if we want to be a disciple, we have to accept suffering and we have to imitate Christ. We must deny ourselves and take up our cross. In our contemporary Christian thought, we take the idea of taking up our cross as accepting the day to day sufferings we encounter. And that’s good. But in the time of Jesus, that meaning had not happened yet. In the first century, telling someone to take up a cross meant to take up a manner of execution. (Imagine saying take up your electric chair and follow me.) Jesus is calling us to suffering and death. Jesus is headed towards Jerusalem, to his execution; His passion.
Next, Jesus outlines the paradox of being a disciple. If we are attacked, our inclination is to run for safety; to protect our lives, but Jesus says, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”If we suffer and die for the sake of Christ, we end up saving our lives. For us, and for Jesus, the only way to the Resurrection is by way of the cross on Calvary. First the cross; then the crown, Good Friday and then Easter. St. Rose of Lima tells us there is no other ladder to Heaven than the ladder of the Cross.
Finally, Jesus gives us the cost of discipleship. “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life.” The Greek word usage is psuché which can mean life and also soul; “Or what can we give in exchange for our life; our soul?” Jesus is telling us that salvation cost us nothing in terms of worldly possessions but everything in terms of giving Jesus our hearts, our minds our souls. If we take on the world as our ends, and do not deny ourselves of the contrary attitudes and allurements of the world, we enrich our physical existence, but avoid the things of the soul.
There is no doubt as to Jesus’ reference to the soul and eternal life since in the last statement for our reading for today, He turns to the end times: “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”
Am I just a “believer” or a true “disciple”. Do I just hold the beliefs or do I imitate Christ in my life?
“Who do you say I am?” ………. Jesus’ question to the apostles can just as easily be meant for us today. Each one of us has to ask themselves, “Who is Jesus to us?”
I guess the most important thing to keep in mind when we name who Jesus is, is His statement, “whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.”
God is everywhere. In Him, we live and move and have our being. Think of it as if we were fish. Water surrounds us. In water, we live and move and have our being. God dwells with us; all around us and in us. Or, perhaps, in air, we live and move and have our being; air all around us and in us. Take away the fish’s water, our air? our God? We die. That image and likeness we speak of, the soul? God dwelling within us.
So go back to whatsoever you do….
When we hurt the least of us, we hurt Jesus. When we help each other, we help Jesus. When we celebrate anyone, we celebrate Jesus. The homeless, the shut-in, the sick, the rich, the happy, the miserable, our enemies…. all the people we come in contact with are the same as coming in contact with Jesus. Even when we hurt ourselves, we hurt Jesus; help ourselves, we help Jesus. I am one of the least. Then, how can we ever hurt another person? Whether it be by hitting or by words. How can I hurt myself? How can we hurt anyone without hurting Jesus?
This takes the notion of “what would Jesus do” to an entirely different level of not just what he would do, but “how would we treat Jesus” in our dealings with each other.
If each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God, can we not see the dignity each person carries within themselves? “Who do you say I am?” You, Jesus are my family member, the person setting next to me in the church pew, my neighbor, my friend, and yes, even my enemy. The homeless, the forgotten, the stranger, the prisoner. You Jesus, are all of us and all of us are You.
Remember the words… “Lord, when did we see you hungry? Lord, when did we see you naked? Lord, when did we see you thirsty?” That’s Jesus. That’s who we say He is. The person right in front of us and also, the person we see when we look in the mirror.
In Jesus’ day, the Jews never ate with, married or had any dealings with gentiles. “We don’t smoke, we don’t chew and we don’t go with folks that do”, was their motto. The disciple’s inability to show compassion to the woman whose daughter was tormented by demons, came from this mindset. In asking Jesus to turn her away, they failed to understand who they were talking to. In the Gospels, when it came to choosing between the outward observances of the Mosaic law and human need, Jesus went with human need every time.
So why does the compassionate Jesus use the word “dog” in referring to the woman? He did not use it as a racial slur; instead, he was mimicking the popular Jewish practice of the day, who used the word dog to distinguish between gentiles and Jews.
Gentile woman in the Gospel, represents for us, all of the people who do not think like, look like or act like you and me. If we do not step out of the religious box, we’ll never meet people where they are, they’ll never relate to us and they’ll never want what we have. To a Catholic, there are no outsiders because Catholic means universal.
Imagine a non-Catholic walking through our church doors, desperate for help with her suffering child. Would you ask them to convert and become a registered member so that you can assist them? Or do you immediately sit down with them and ask: “How can I help?”.
We are seeing a whole generation of young people referred to as the “nones”, because they have no religious affiliation. They have looked at church people but have not seen Jesus. What kind of group do you want to belong to? A club restricting your membership with their conditions or a family that accepts you just as you are?
Know your doctrine, but hold up Jesus and people will be drawn. You are the only Jesus some people will ever see.
Show your Faith.
The road from Capernaum to Tyre is a long road that can take several days and up to more than a week of travel due to its topographical location and brittle terrain. But the questions here are: Why did Jesus travel so much so as not to attend to the plea of a desperate woman? Did Jesus come only for the Israelites? Does he not contradict what Jesus came for the sick and sinners? Let's untangle this puzzle!
The woman's emotion at having met Jesus leads her to contemplate the exact words of the blind man of Jericho: "Have compassion on me, Lord Son of David." The Canaanite woman recognizes the lordship of Jesus, knowing that the only one who can help her daughter tormented by a demon is that man whom many call Messiah. Still, this man does not pay the slightest attention to the desperate woman. I can feel that the disappointment of any of us in her place would have been so great that we would have taken the child and gone the way we entered, but that was not so, that insistent woman, approaching him, saying, "Lord, help me."
She receives scorn again, comparing her daughter to a puppy. What sadness for that mother! Who honestly answers Jesus that even the puppies feed on the crumbs, which we can translate that also those who are not children of Israel seek and need the Lord to snatch a miracle; Yes!!, that woman makes Jesus change his mind, just as his mother Mary did at the wedding in Canaan, although Jesus' hour had not come, Mary makes him perform his first public miracle.
This courageous woman snatches the miracle from Jesus for her daughter.
This is the faith we need to face the adversities of the world, which we face daily, with its diseases, problems, wars, bad economies, poverty, natural disasters, and wrong decisions taken away. Jesus knows our needs very well, even before we express them to him, but he turns a deaf ear so that we can demonstrate our faith, even in the midst of our storms or deserts; he leaves us adrift to reward us with what he has made us wait; on the other hand, Jesus also shows us that pride does not take us anywhere, instead that takes us away from him, leading us to a cliff of no return, let's see what would have happened if that woman had acted with pride and arrogance; Our Lord Jesus Christ always teaches us something, and this time it is that before the disappointment of pride, there is humility, faith, and perseverance in the things we seek and need even if they are apparently impossible to achieve.
In this way, only those who have faith in Jesus and recognize his lordship can please God.