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Fr. Jerry's Homilies

November 15

Fr. Jerry

The master of the estate distributes sums of money (talents) to his servants. How much money? Well, a talent is a great sum of money.  A talent varied in value as the whether it was gold or silver, but scholars tell us that a silver talent was equal to between 15 to 20 years of a person’s annual salary. The first servant’s 5 talents would be between 75 to 100 years of annual income. Notice the master doesn’t distribute the talents equally but rather according to each servant’s abilities. In the parable, the assumption is that the talents will be utilized well. (This monetary measurement of a talent is, of course where we get the English terminology for our particular personal talents.) Our Master, God distributes talents to us also but, as you know, they are not evenly distributed but given according to our abilities. This person is good at math, due to an innate gift; this person excels in music for the same reason.

Then the master goes away.  Jesus, our Master, ascends to the Father and physically leaves us to utilize our talents.  When we return to Jesus, or he comes back to us a second time, we provide an accounting just as the servants did in the Gospel today.

In the parable, the first two servants double the investment given. “Well done, my good and faithful servant…… Come, share your master's joy.” Just as the banquet of the previous parables, the Master’s joy represents Heaven. Of course, Heaven is eternal life, but think about it; eternal joy. Eternal happiness. When was the last time you felt absolute, complete and overwhelming joy?  That’s Heaven; joy for eternity. Joy, happiness is what we all chase after although some, unfortunately chase for it down the wrong avenues. Chasing wealth, power, pleasure; believing that these things will bring me joy.  But the reality is complete joy is to be in the presence of God. We hope to share the Master’s joy.

The third servant?  Well he doesn’t invest the money.  He buries it, because he is afraid.  “'Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter;” Now think about that, the servant has just called his master a thief, he has insulted him.

So here is the twist we find in every parable.  The master has given this last servant one talent which equals 15 to 20 years of salary.  Let’s say, just as an example, you make $50,000.00 a year. $50,000.00 a year for 20 years would give you a talent worth one million dollars. The master gives freely. The master is generous. Harsh? A thief?  Not likely.  So, why is the servant afraid?  Sin distorts our image of the Master; distorts our image of God. Remember in Genesis; Adam and Eve sin and they hide themselves from God. God freely gave them everything, God loves them, God wants the best for them. But now they see the Master as a punisher; God is out to get them back. God has become the demanding person; vengeful. Sin can make us forget what we are made for; to know, love and serve God in this world so as to be happy with him in the next. God cannot be a thief because everything belongs to him.

We care for others, the world by using our talents.  If we share our gifts, our talents and build up others, build up the kingdom, we get more. We get to enter into the Master’s joy.  If we neglect others, hate, destroy or misuse our talents, we lose everything. Those who have much will gain much more; those who have little will lose it all.  It is not a market based reality of investment of goods, but the reality of loving God, loving others, making disciples.

 

Deacon Philip

            Do you think of yourself as a servant?  And if you do, who do you serve?  This question should not be answered quickly.  Take your time and think about it in light of our Gospel reading today.  Jesus is the master in this parable and guess who the servants are?  That’s right, we are the servants.  We need to ask ourselves are we the good and faithful servant -- - or are we the wicked, lazy servant?  I’m sure we all want to answer - - of course we are the good and faithful servant.  

            Let’s talk about what Jesus is telling us in this parable.  As I said the master is Jesus, and he is going on a journey.  The master, Jesus was on this earth for about 33 years and 3 of those years he was preaching the good news.  Healing the cripple, giving sight to the blind and raising up the dead.  You would think the people in His day, seeing and hearing about Jesus would have made them all good and faithful servants - - but it didn’t.  They tortured him and put him to death.  But on the third day he rose and ascended into heaven.  In other words, he went on a journey, just like the master in the parable today.  Before Jesus left he told his apostles and us, to go and make disciples - - spreading the good news to all nations.  

            The parable says, after a long time the master (Jesus) came back and settled accounts.  This is the second coming of Christ.  You see in the parable, the servants did not know when the master was going to return, so they needed to act quickly.  There was no time like the present.  We must decide - -  are we going to be like the good and faithful servant or the wicked, lazy servant.  That future judgement all depends on how we serve now.  And what is the future reward?  Jesus tells us in the Gospel, Come, share your master’s joy.  This is the joy of heaven.  Jesus is urging us to be ready for the master’s return. When will this second coming happen?  We don’t know.  Some will be alive for the second coming.  They will also see Jesus and be judged at the moment.  At that time, we will have to stand before Jesus with our talents.  

            In the parable the talents were not distributed equally.  To one he gave five talents, to another, two, to a third, one. And Jesus explains this, to each according to his ability.  Therefore, each servant received just the right number of talents.  Not too many in order that the talents would not go to waste unused, and not too few that the servant would not be frustrated with his untapped abilities.  Notice that the first two servants produced different amounts of talents in return.  One made 5 extra talents and one made 2 extra talents, however; the Master had the same response to both of them.  “Well done, my good and faithful servant, since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.”  The master says exactly the same thing to the servant who produced 5 talents and to the servant who produced 2 talents.  There is not one word different in the response of the master, even though one produced 3 talents more than the other.  Why?  They had both been equally diligent in according to their own ability.  The reward they received is equal because they had both been equally conscientious even though they produced different talents.  

            Now for the third servant, he was called a wicked, lazy servant.  What he did was not terribly immoral.   His sin is one of omission.  It’s what he could have done - -  but was too lazy to do.  He had also received a talent according to his ability, he only received one, but with even one talent he refused to put it to work.  He refused to use even that one talent that he was given to help someone else.  

            Now is the time to go to work.  In the parable, Jesus does not give the servants a blueprint of how to invest the talents received.  He does not try to tell them what they should do with them.  He left that up to them, just like he leaves it up to us.  The Lord expects diligence in using the gifts we have received.  He gave us free will, and so it’s up to us to figure out what is best for the gifts we have received.  Sometimes we can figure this out on our own, other times, someone close to us may suggest something we should be doing.  Christ comes to us in many ways, it could be our wife, a close friend, a child, or even a co-worker.  It’s up to us not to ignore the call of Christ - - we must use the talents he has given us to the best of our ability.  

            We should not spend our time, wondering when Jesus will come the second time.  We should put our talents to work and give God the glory for providing these talents.  We should also realize that the talents received in the parable are not small.  A talent also carries a monetary value; in Jesus’ day it was equal to 6,000 day’s wages.  You can see the master is entrusting the servants with a large amount of money.  What God gives us is equally large and priceless.  So we must put those talents to work.  We should not take what God has given us lightly, this is why the master in the parable was so upset at the third servant, he had a talent that no one else had, yet he chose not to use it.  

            Pope Benedict XVI says, “the talents refer not just to our natural abilities and qualities but are the riches Jesus gives us.  He lists these talents or riches as the Word of God, Baptism, prayer, forgiveness, the Eucharist, the Kingdom which is God himself present and alive in our midst. “The  third servant buried his treasure because he had a wrong attitude to God; he described God as a hard taskmaster.  He did not have a relationship with God; in the parable we read that he even was afraid of God. 

            This is a wake-up call to us; that after receiving Baptism, the Eucharist and Confirmation we cannot bury these gifts beneath a blanket of prejudice, injustice, or a false image of God.  We must use these gifts every day and continue to come to the table of the Lord to receive his Body and Blood and being refreshed go out into the world and share the good news -- - - to share the gifts we have been given.  So one day we will hear those words: “Come, share your master's joy.”  

 

November 8

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 are redeemed 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, 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 very life was 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 the 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 succeeded. 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 can slowly be acquired but must also slowly be 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

 

November 1

Today we celebrate all the souls in Heaven whom we now call saints.  The Church provides us the theology of the Communion of Saints, a powerful attribute for us in our militant fight to attain the Heaven to which, they are already members.

Communion, to be in union with, is when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ because we are uniting ourselves to Christ; we, in union with Him; communion. A similar definition applies to the Communion of Saints; we are united with them; we are in union with them as all of us are members of the Universal Church.  It’s circular.  We believe the Saints in Heaven can pray for us.  We pray to the Saints for their help for us. They pray for us to get to Heaven.  Within that circular motion are the souls in Purgatory. They also pray for us and we pray for them to be released from the purgation of their souls into the Kingdom of Heaven while they too pray for us to get to Heaven.  It’s a circular motion of each praying for the other: Earth to Purgatory, Purgatory to Heaven, Earth to Heaven and Heaven to Earth. All of us working together; in communion for the good of all. Rather like a fountain circulating existing water upwards then back to the source to be repeated again.

A few years back, I was in an elevator at a residence building near Vanderbilt; I had just finished a visit to bring Jesus to one of the homebound.  In the elevator was a woman.  She saw that I was a priest and asked me where I was from.  I said St. Ann’s.  She asked me who that was and I said the mother of Mary. Immediately, she told me that there was one intercessor between us and God and that was Jesus Christ and so we Catholics are in error. (her tone and words were much harsher).

There are several places in the New Testament that mention this fact, but the most prevalent is St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, Chapter 2:5: which states that, “There is …one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human,This is one of our Protestant brothers and sisters, whom we love deeply, argument against the Church that we are not following scripture when we pray to Mary and the Saints. There is in black and white; there is one mediator and it is not anyone else. So, why do we pray to the Saints, to Mary? 

Well, the lady was correct, there is one mediator to the Father; this Jesus, At His crucifixion, only a God could plead for us to God, so Jesus, in His divinity ascended to the Father to beg his forgiveness for us.

But this Bible verse is used absent of its context. When we quote the Bible, we cannot separate a single passage from the surrounding verses, chapters or testament. For in the same letter to Timothy, in the immediate verses before this statement, St. Paul tells us, “I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior.Think of Jesus as the primary intercessor and the rest of the saints, and us, as subordinate, or secondary intercessors.

The answer, of course for this woman was, if someone asked you to pray for them, would you? As a good Christian, would you pray for the sick, a friend’s surgery, a suffering parent? Why would we pray for anyone if the reality is that we should only pray to God through Jesus? Thus making our earthly prayers for others useless; God wouldn’t hear them. Well of course, she would pray for another person.

We believe the Saints in Heaven are alive. They can hear us; they can pray for us just as if they were here on earth beside us. Jesus, God Himself pleads for us to the Father, but we ask Jesus to intercede for us.  Mary, Jesus’ mother? Surely Jesus listens to her. The saints are right there in Heaven, surely their prayers are heard just as our prayers are always heard. All of us ask for prayers from whomever we can get to pray for us because to ask Jesus to assist us as St. Paul tells us, “It is good to make supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings for everyone.” 

 

October 18

Deacon Tim

One of the most well-known sayings of Jesus is: “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and give unto God what is God’s.”  We admire it because it is so practical!  On the other hand, it makes us squirm!  The only conclusion that we can come to is that we’re going to have to pay our taxes!

In the Gospel story, 2 groups who despised each other form an unlikely alliance to try to trip Jesus up – the Pharisees and the Herodians.  We’re familiar with the Pharisees but who were the Herodians?  Seen as traitors to the faith by the Pharisees, the Herodians were Jews who, setting aside the hope of a ruling Messiah, supported the rule of Herod over all of Israel.  The Pharisees clung to the idea of a coming Davidic kingdom and Messianic rule.  One cause brought these political opponents together, a desire to get rid of Jesus!

When they flattered Jesus, calling him “teacher”, “one who speaks truthfully” and one “who cares about only what God thinks”, they imagined this would open up Jesus’ heart fully to them, seeking to make them his disciples. Obviously, they had no idea who they were talking to!

Stamped on the coins used to pay taxes, were these words: “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus”.  This blasphemous statement was why the Pharisees saw paying this tax as a violation of their faith.  The Herodians, being loyal to Herod, viewed this as an obligation.  So, their question to Jesus was a no-win game.  If Jesus says “Pay it.”, he will be seen as being disloyal to the Jewish faith.  If he says, “Don’t pay it.”, he’ll be accused of rebelling against Caesar.  Jesus flips the trap back at them, calling their own loyalties into question.

The story of the coin is saying to us today, to give others what is due them and give to God what is due him.  This is to practice the cardinal virtue of justice.  What better advice could there be to balance our spiritual and political lives?

To give others their due, is only to give them a portion of what we have. To give God his due, is to give him everything that we are.  We would do well to pray: “Lord, it’s not my house or my car, I don’t own my wife or my kids and it’s not my 401K. By your grace, I’m just watching over these things for a while.  I freely open my hand and offer it all back to you.”

 

Deacon Philip

          Homily Matthew 22:15-21 Nativity October 18, 2020

We have all heard a parent ask a child, who do you love more?  Mommy or daddy?  This is a no win situation for the child, no matter how he or she answers - - someone is not going to like the results.  Unless the child answers, I love you both the same.  

         The Pharisees have not learned that Jesus cannot be trapped, no matter how many times they try to catch him.  The Pharisees are like Charlie Brown, Lucy tells him to kick the football and every time she moves it at the last minute to make Charlie Brown fall.  Charlie Brown never learns and neither do the Pharisees.  

         So they sent their disciples to him with the Herodians saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status,” Can you hear the sarcasm in this statement and then the question?  “Tell us, then, what is your opinion:  Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”  It is foolish to try and outsmart God - - a waste of time and effort.  

         Notice there were two groups that went to ask Jesus this question.  The Herodians and the disciples of the Pharisees.  The Herodians derived their name as followers of King Herod.  They were a political party that wanted to restore a Herod to the throne in Judea as well as other areas ruled by Herod the Great.  They were political foes of the Pharisees.  The Herodians were on the side of the Romans and thought paying the tax was a responsibility and did not have an issue with it.  The Pharisees saw Rome as an oppressor and the coin an idolatry.  We see the Herodians and the Pharisees mentioned three times together in the Bible and each time they were trying to catch Jesus in an answer that would give them the reason to have him put to death.   So either way Jesus answered, he would upset one group or the other.  

         Jesus understood this, and knew he had to be careful in how he answered the question. His first question back to them was, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?”  Jesus knows how to ask a question that leaves you speechless.  The poor Pharisees already know they have been outsmarted.  Then Jesus tells them to produce the coin that pays the census tax.  Jesus already knew what the coin looked like and what the inscription was.  Yet he asked the Pharisees this question to drive home the point.  “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  They replied “Caesar’s and what the Gospel does not tell us - -is that coins came with different inscriptions; one inscription was “Dominus Noster (Our Lord)”  

         Possessing this coin was in itself an admission that the Pharisees were compromised as loyal Jews.  It implied they recognized the Roman emperor as their lawful ruler - - a man who dared to give himself the title, “Our Lord”.  For a pious Jew that would have been blasphemy.  They had really fallen into the trap they’d set for Jesus!  Instead of dwelling on this point, Jesus simply said, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”  

         Looking at this from a Christian viewpoint - - we know that everything we have comes from God.  He created everything so we really are just using His creations.  Yet we see in Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippian’s “we are also citizens of the world.”  We have a duty to respect the government of our country and to obey the laws which it enacts.  That includes paying taxes to finance health, security, roads, etc. and to promote development.  But while we must recognize our civic obligations, our final loyalty is to God.   Where there’s a clash over the demands made on us God’s will must always come first.  In such cases it may be our duty to protest or even disobey unjust laws enacted by the state.  These protest must be peaceful and without malice.  

         I’ll give you are example, standing in front of planned parenthood with anti-abortion signs peacefully praying the rosary is lawful and drives home the point that what is happening inside that building is against God’s law, even if it’s legal.  We have crosses in front of Church that our Knights put up to remind us of the deaths every day to these little ones.  

         When we stand before God and He ask us to give an account of our lives - - we want to be able to say - - I followed your laws to the best of my ability.  And we want to hear, “well done my good and faithful servant, come share your master’s joy.”   

          

Deacon CJ

In an effort to divide Jesus from the people, the Pharisees pose a trick question concerning Jesus’ loyalty to God or to Caesar.  Is it right – lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?

In the time of Jesus there were three taxes imposed upon the people by the Roman government.  First was the “ground tax” that was to be paid for the wine and olive oil produced by all land owners.   Second, was an “income tax” which was one percent of a man’s income.  And then comes the “poll tax”, which was one day’s wage; a denarius, that was levied upon every male between the ages of fourteen and sixty-five and every female between the ages of twelve and sixty-five.    (Gospel of Matthew, William Barclay, pg.316-320)   Additionally, in keeping with the rules Moses set forth in the book of Leviticus, the people also paid various tithes to support the temple and expiate sins. (see Lev.27:30-32) 

In short the people are oppressed by taxes; the Pharisees and Herodians know this and are looking to trap Jesus. If he says it is lawful to pay the tax, he sets himself with the Romans. If he says that it is unlawful to pay the tax, he sets himself up as an insurrectionist against Roman law.  What is he to do with this dilemma? 

We are not dealing with an ordinary philosopher, or public official.  Jesus is a faithful Jew who keeps the commandments of God.  He prays the Shema daily.   “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one LORD; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all you might.” (Deut.6:4-9). This is a call to holiness; a call to a life of virtue guided by the Holy Spirit.  Additionally, within the fourth commandment to honor father and mother is the requirement to respect all legitimate authority whether it be civil or church. 

As I said, these authorities are looking to divide Jesus as well as the people  Jesus, who sees all hearts, calls them out as hypocrites (actors) who have malicious intent in their hearts and yet will stand on the street corners and pray the Shema loudly for all to see and hear (Mt.6:5).  This is another attempt by Jesus calling them to a conversion of heart so that they too might enjoy the Kingdom of God.  Thus He asks for the coin used for the poll tax and they give him one.  Someone in their party carried the coin with the image of Caesar on it and handed it to Jesus.  

“Whose image is this and whose inscription?” he asks. They answer that it is Caesar.  “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what belongs to God.  What does not belong to God?  Whose image is engraved upon our baptized souls?  This incident in the Gospel is a call to each of us to conversion of mind and restless heart.  This is a call for us to live a virtue driven life so as to give glory to God, now and forever. 

We have after all, been given much and much is required of us (Lk.12:48), so that our souls may give thanks and rest in God the Father for all eternity (1Thess1:5). 

  

October 11

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.

 

 

October 4

This is the last parable before the Passion of Christ.  He is in the Temple, confronting the growing position against him.

The parallel is the Old Testament reading from Isaiah we heard today.  In Isaiah is the

Vineyard = Jerusalm  or perhaps,  for us, the “World?” but also the world God made: beautiful full of life for our benefit. Bringing forth fruit. We are not slaves of God, we have put on this world to flourish and do great things for God.  We are tenants of the world to do good.  God is the owner.

In a parable, Jesus is addressing not only them but always US WHO HEAR/READ.

Home owner or the Owner of the Vineyard = God       Vineyard = People of Judah, Leaders of the People

Tenants   Chief Priests of Jerusalem 

Beaten

Stoned

Killed        History of the Prophets.  God sends them to call to repentance.  Leaders do to the prophets? Persecuted the prophets Killed?   Isaiah   most famous after Elijah   sawn in two Manasseh

Stoned   Jeremiah   Leaders are wicked  called to repentance  city destroyed if no repentance.600 yrs. Before Jesus. Threw him into a cistern and attempted to kill several times, but ultimately stoned to death.

Look for the Unexpected seemingly irrational to us, but the original Jewish audience would get it.

Beaten, stoned and kill…………I’ll send my son.    Would you send YOUR son?  No sense to us.  You’re setting your son up for death.  What crazy dad would send his son there.   Not an ordinary Father/ Son

Jesus, God knows full well, He is going to die

Son= Jesus who is killed by the leaders of Jerusalem

Cast him out of the vineyard?  Jesus is crucified outside the city walls.

What would the owner do?

Jesus= there’s the key,  the stone rejected has become the cornerstone  Ps. 118  Very famous

Song sung during Passover 113-1189 Hillel psalms.

Everybody knew all the words and melody. EVERYONE would know what He was talking about. But in tradition, the psalm is also about the Messiah = a foundation stone for the new Temple.

Jesus would “build a new Temple and usher in a New Jerusalem?

Jesus,  I AM THE STONE WHICH YOU ARE REJECTING. 

Implication of the current Jerusalem and Temple?    Jerusalem and the Temple is going down.

Recall “destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days  (Himself)  in Matthew.  

This is one of the charges against Jesus by the leaders.

Vineyard = Jerusalm  or perhaps,  for us, the “World?” We are stewards, NOT OWNERS but also the world God made: beautiful full of life for our benefit. Bringing forth fruit. We are not slaves of God, we have put on this world to flourish and do great things for God.  We are tenants of the world to do good.  God is the owner.

Tenants work for the owner’s good even though they benefit.   The world is God’s we work is to bring forth good fruit for Him, even though we benefit.

The owner lets them go about their business.  We are not puppets.  We have free will and he lets us have independence. 

Vintage time draws near?   OUR vintage time?  “God arrives to collect “

Fate of the prophets?  Don’t tell me I’m wrong!  I am the master of myself.  Don’t remind me that I am a steward that owes everything to God, ultimately.

 

September 27

Mass comes from the Latin “Ita Missa Est” said at the end of the gathering of the early Christians. It means you are dismissed/go on your mission (Missa). You have received the graces of the Word and the Eucharist to be Christ in the world for the upcoming week. Come back next week to refuel. The Mass is also referred to as the Eucharist or the Eucharistic Feast. The word Eucharist means to give thanks and now, also refers to the Body and Blood of Christ.

In the Mass, there are two parts, called liturgies. Liturgy means “work of the people”, it is the work we do to praise God.

The first part of the Mass is called the Liturgy of the Word. The early Christians did not abandon their Jewish roots quickly. They still went to “church.” For the Jews, this meant the Temple in Jerusalem or the synagogue in other communities.  In the Jewish prayer service, there was a proclamation of the words of God and a reflection, or explanation of the scriptures given. At Mass, it is the proclamation of the biblical readings and the homily “homlietikos” in Greek meaning conversation.   

The second part of the Mass it the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Jesus, Himself gave us the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  We read in Matthew 26:20-29, Mark 14:17-25, Luke 22:14-20 and 1Corinthinthians 11:23-25, that Jesus took bread and wine, blessed them and gave it to His Apostles.  In Luke and Corinthians Jesus tells the apostles to “do this in memory of Me.” the Liturgy of the Eucharist is based on the Jewish Passover meal, which to Christians is experienced by way of the Last Supper of Christ where Jesus gives us His Body and Blood.

One complaint we get from our Protestant brothers and sisters is that the Mass is not in the Bible. Actually, the Mass is intertwined directly from scripture. Let’s take a look at the Mass and where it comes from.

Liturgy of the Word:

The Sign of the Cross. Matthew 28:19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit. 1)We Mark ourselves as Christians and 2) to remind ourselves to Know, Love and Serve God in the world so as to be happy with Him in the next

The Lord be with you Luke 1:28 And coming to her, he (the Angel) said, (to Mary)“Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you. The Lord is with US.  2 Tim: 4:22 “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with all of you.”  The earlier translation said “And also with you”.  This is not a good translation.  The priest acts in Persona Christi, in the person of Christ.  We say “and with your spirit” to the priest, (and with the spirit of Christ which is within.)

Gloria Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

O.T. Psalm, N.T., and Gospel from the Bible.

Prayer for the Deacon/Priest before the Gospel: Cleanse my heart and my lips, almighty God, that I may worthily proclaim your holy Gospel. Isaiah 6:6-7 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it. “See,” he said, “now that this has touched your lips,*your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”

 Liturgy of the Eucharist: Altar is set and since there is music on Sundays, the prayers said are in private over the bread and wine.

After preparation of the gifts, the priest says: With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you, Lord God. In the book of Daniel,               3:39 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah…Hebrew names) Azariah says “But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bulls, or tens of thousands of fat lambs…”

The priest washes his hands: “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity; cleanse me from my sin” Psalm 26: 6 “I will wash my hands* in innocence so that I may process around your altar, Lord”  

Holy, Holy, Holy: Isaiah 6: “…. I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above…... One cried out to the other: “Holy, holy, holy* is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!”  Rev. 4 “The four living creatures, ….. Day and night they do not stop exclaiming: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.”

Eucharistic Prayer is all built on the Last Supper. Taken from scripture He took bread and wine, blest it and give it to his disciples. The Last Supper was the Seder meal celebrated by Jews at the Passover.By the way, the priest is acting for Christ, he is the hands raising up the bread and wine. At the Mass, although we don’t see them, the entire court of the Church triumphant in Heaven is present, as is the entire Church Suffering in Purgatory and the Church Militant on earth. There a Billions present when Christ is truly present in the Eucharist at the Mass. We call our celebration the Sacrifice of the Mass because we re-present the Crucifixion at every Mass. Jesus does not suffer again and again, but the Mass brings forth, in time, the moment of His crucifixion into our present day reality; His real sacrifice for us is present. When the bread and wine is held up to be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ; my quiet prayer is “Almighty God, accept Jesus as He offers Himself up to you for us.  That’s why God doesn’t zap us. Because of the time zones of the earth, Mass is continually offered. God looks out to see His Son raised up to constantly see the sacrifice offered by the Son to the Father. “Father forgive them……”

The Our Father: Mt. 6, Lk.11, at the end of the prayer, we say an embolism, a widening of the last words “deliver us from evil” then we say the doxology; for Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory……. which is not in the scriptures used by the Church. It is just that, a doxology; a blessed confirmation of our most important prayer. We get this idea of doxologies from the Jews who offered up blessed affirmations of their most important prayers.

The sign of peace: Mt. 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you,leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

The Lamb of God   Jn.“1:29 John the Baptist says, “Behold, the Lamb of God,* who takes away the sin of the world”

Our answer, Lord I am not worthy… Mt. 8:8 “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed”

The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.  (2 Tim: 4:22)

Blessing. Sign of the Cross     

Dismissal.  Missio, mission, go! Don’t forget the Church requires us to weekly Mass to refuel our tanks to be Christ in the world. It allows us to Love God, Love Others and Make Disciples

                                                                                                                         

 September  20

Deacon Phil

       How do we judge what is fair?   We see things everyday that we may or may not agree with.  If someone works hard and is rewarded, they deserve their just pay.  But what about that person in your workplace that just does what is expected and no more, do they also deserve their just pay?  We are looking at this through human eyes.  We are judging what is fair through our human experiences. 

       This is how the Jewish people felt when the Messiah came and called the Gentiles to become part of the same Church - - with an equal right to form the new people of God.  What they missed and what we might miss is that this is an invitation, unmerited by us to be called.  Through God's generosity the last will receive the same reward as the first - -Heaven.  To have a job in the Lord's vineyard is a divine gift and Jesus gives each of us a task, they will not all be the same - - but the reward is. 

       Jesus told us that he came to show mercy and forgiveness.  He came to turn our world upside down. Showing us by this parable that the first will be last and the last will be first.  This should not make us angry but should make us feel grateful that we have a loving and forgiving God who places our welfare about our own pettiness.  A God who wants the best from us - - at whatever point we are ready to receive His love and mercy.  We are all sinners and in need of God's grace.  Open your heart to God's mercy and allow His grace and love to consume our every thought, word, and deed.    

 

Deacon CJ

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.   We have been called and sent into the world to proclaim and build the kingdom of God. (Mt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15)   As Christians we have been given much and much is required of us (Luke 12:48). As Christians, we have been enriched and enhanced through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.   This inner enrichment of our souls leads to the calling us to conversion of mind and heart, to be active participants – partners with God in building His kingdom.   Just a couple weeks ago we heard St. Paul say in Romans that this calls for a renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2, see also Phil. 1:27).

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.  From the beginning God wanted man to work in His garden/vineyard and even after the fall of Adam, 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, not my breathing.  God has set the limits on the length of my days.   Plain and simple, I am vulnerable, weak, poor, and in need of God’s blessing in my life.  Sometimes it takes a great pain; a great cross, like the death of a child that awakens 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. 

The attitude of the workers hired at the break of day can be seen as one of entitlement.  They have the attitude that they have, which indeed they have, ‘carried the burden of the day’s heat like a humid day in the middle of August in middle Tennessee.  They expect, in their mind  to receive a greater reward for their labor, but are in fact given the wages they agreed to with the vineyard owner.  The owner of the vineyard, knows that the day laborers probably have a wife and family to feed.  It is his compassion that is displayed by sending them home with this daily wage so they too can feed their household. As today’s psalm says, “the Lord is gracious and merciful.”

As an example of working in the vineyard of the Lord, I’d like to bring to mind the story of St. Therese – the Little Flower and her intercession for a fellow human being. The year is 1887.  There was in Paris a notorious thief and murder named Henri Pranzini. Little Therese was 14 years old.  Because of newspaper articles about the murder and trial, she knew about Pranzini’s crimes. One Sunday after Mass, Therese saw a religious picture of the hands of and feet of Jesus.  She resolved in her mind and heart, to place herself at the foot of the cross and pray for souls so they would not go to hell. In particular, she prayed for Pranzini who was found guilty and sentenced to death. He refused to visit with a priest. 

Therese decided to seek the grace of God for this one man’s souls. She wrote in her diary; “My God, I am quite sure that Thou wilt pardon this unhappy Pranzini. I should still think so if he did not confess his sins or give any sign of sorrow, because I have such confidence in Thy unbounded Mercy; but this is my first sinner, and therefore I beg for just one sign of repentance to reassure me.” On the day of his execution, Pranzini walked and stumbled to the gallows where the priest stood to offer him one last opportunity for repentance.  At the last moment he turned to the priest, grabbed his crucifix and kissed it three times. Therese would record in her diary, “My prayer was granted to the letter.

You see, it is never too late to come to the Lord.  But as I said earlier, I do not control the beating of my heart; God does. One day He, the just Judge will ask me about my stewardship in His vineyard.  I’d best be busy in the Lord’s vineyard by loving Him and fellow man.

 

Deacon Tim 

Isn’t it true that we want mercy for ourselves and justice for others?

We are living in a culture that is obsessed with fairness!  This can be seen in everything from legitimate, peaceful protests, to rioting and looting, all in the name of fairness!  The problem is that everyone has their own idea of fairness.

When I was young, I was captive to the notion that everyone should treat me fairly.  These expectations led to frequent conflicts at home and on the job. All this went on until one day an old man explained the mystery for me in a way that changed my perspective; he said: “Tim, the only fair is at the fairgrounds!”.  I don’t control what others do but I can always treat other people fairly.

An old man comes to the priest, confessing a life time of crime and bank robbery.  An 8-year-old confesses that he stole a piece of bubble gum.  Both receive the same absolution, is that fair?  The 1streading gives us the answer when the Lord says: “My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways.”  It’s a good thing for us.  Thank God we’re NOT getting everything that we deserve!

The gospel story, about the laborers in the vineyard and what they got on payday, is telling us it’s not our job to judge what others get and what they don’t.  By comparing ourselves to each other, we create a trap!  On the one had it leads to pride.  On the other hand, it leads to insecurity. 

Today, let us pray a simple prayer: “Lord, I commit myself to trusting in your justice for others and myself. I will focus on building other people up and be happy to see them blessed.”  Each day our job is to be faithful to doing our own small part that we are called to do.  We need to find out what that is and put all our energy behind it.  Outcomes are up to God, not me.  Who he rewards and how he does it is none of my business

 

 September  13

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.

 

 August 30

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?

 

August 23

“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.