30th Sunday O T, Year A – 17

30th Sunday O T, Year A – 17

Exo.22:20-26 / 1Thess.1:5-10 / Matt.22:34-40

The central theme of today’s readings is the greatest Commandment in the Bible, namely to love God and express it in action by loving Him in our neighbor. The first reading, taken from Exodus, explains the different expressions of the love of one’s neighbor, especially of the underprivileged.

In the second reading, St. Paul praises the Thessalonian Christians for the heroic witness they bear to Christ by practicing mutual love.

In the Gospel today, Jesus combines the commandment to love God with the commandment to love one’s neighbor and gives the result as one Commandment of supreme importance in Christian life.

A Sunday school teacher was teaching her class about the 10 Commandments in preparation for their First Confession (8-year-olds)

After explaining the Commandment to “honor thy father and mother” she asked the class, ” Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?”

Immediately one boy puts up his hand and answered, “Thou shall not kill.” If we had grown up with siblings, we probably would have agreed with that boy.

And we may have to admit that some people are such a pain for us that we would have done something drastic if not for that commandment.

There is another joke. A pastor was speaking to a Sunday school class about the things money can’t buy.  “It can’t buy laughter and it can’t buy love” he told them.

Driving his point home, he said, “What would you do if I offered you $1000 not to love your mother and father?” Stunned silence ensued.

Finally, a small voice queried, “How much would you give me not to love my big sister?”

In the gospel, we heard that the Pharisees asked Jesus about which is the greatest commandment of the Law.

The Pharisees were such a pain for Jesus. As if they don’t know what is the greatest commandment of the Law. But they asked that question not so much for discussion but rather to disconcert Jesus.

To disconcert is to upset or to frustrate or to ruffle or irritate someone. It’s certainly not a nice thing to do to someone.

And Jesus could have given those Pharisees a piece of His mind just to shut them up, just as He had silenced the Sadducees earlier.

But being a good teacher, Jesus showed them where to look, and He left it to them to see whatever they want to see or whatever they have to see.

The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And then it is followed by this: You must love your neighbor as yourself.

So, to love God is to see God in your neighbor and that would also mean to see yourself in your neighbor. Jesus told the Pharisees where to look, but what they want to see is for them to choose and decide.

So, we are also told where to look. And what do we see? As for Jesus, He saw that it would be more loving to give those Pharisees a bit of His heart than to give them a piece of His mind.

We too would be happier when we give people a bit of our heart rather than a piece of our mind.

But when we look at the people around us, those at home, those at work, those in Church, it would be easier to give them a piece of our mind than a bit of our heart.

And here lies the lesson of life – Nothing and no one ever goes away until they teach us what we need to know.

God doesn’t give us the people we want. He gives us the people we need – people who will hurt us, people who will leave us, but also people who will help us and people who will love us, so as to make us into the persons we were meant to be.

When we can see that, then we would have understood the lesson of life. And with that, we will be able to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.

A fundamental theme that runs throughout the entire Bible is this: “God offers, we respond.” God’s offer of love for us is a given; His unconditional love is always offered to us no matter what. The result, however, is conditional. The result depends upon our response to His offer.

How, then, do we respond to Christ’s mandate that we love everyone as we love ourselves? First of all, we should take it for what it is – a mandate, a command. It is something we must choose to do with little regard for our feelings.

Feelings are important but feelings are not decisive. Convictions, things we are convinced of, are decisive. Feelings are not. More often than not, acting on our feelings leads us down wrong paths and into trouble.

Christ’s mandate was an utterly simple one, one with no complexities whatsoever. I don’t care how you feel, Jesus says to us, simply love your neighbors. Love them as your heavenly Father loves them.

Love them, the good and the bad alike, with the unconditional love with which your Father in heaven loves them. Love all of your neighbors in what you do to them, in what you do for them, and in how you act toward them.

All of those complicated and complex feelings of yours will eventually follow along. My religion, says Jesus, is a matter of what we do; it’s not a religion simply of nice feelings.

Be Blessed and be a blessing. Amen.

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29th Sunday O T Year A – 17

29th Sunday O T Year A – 17

Is.45:1, 4-6; IThes.1:1-5b; Matt.22:15-21

A prosperous farmer was miserly in what he gave to his Church. So, his pastor went to visit him with the hope of getting him to increase his donation. The pastor pointed out to him that the Lord had given him a fertile piece of land and had blessed him with sunshine and rain so that his crops would grow.

The priest added, “You know, this farm and everything you have is really on loan to you from God.  You should be more grateful.”  The farmer replied, “I don’t mean to complain, Father, but you should have seen what a mess this place was when God was running it by Himself!”

The common theme of today’s readings is the nature of our obligations to God and to our country. The readings show us how, with God’s help, we can be ideal citizens of both earth and Heaven.

In the first reading and in the Gospel, a world superpower is matched up against the Kingdom of God.  Isaiah the prophet foretells how, indirectly, the policies of the great Persian Emperor Cyrus will help God’s saving plan for His chosen people.

In the second reading, Paul praises his converts in Thessalonica for their fidelity to God and to Christ His Son, and for their practice of the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity with the help of the Holy Spirit.

In the Gospel, Jesus escapes from the trap in the question, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” by stating, “Pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

With this answer, Jesus reminds his questioners that if they are so concerned and careful about paying taxes to the state, they should be much more concerned and careful about their service to God and their obligations to Him as their Creator and Lord.

We fulfill our duties to our country by loyally obeying the just laws of the State and working for the welfare of all citizens. We become Heavenly citizens by obeying God’s laws.

Every three years we are presented with today’s gospel, one that interests many of us because it deals with the question of separation between Church and State.

The first thing we should note is that the question put to Jesus was a lawyer’s trick question. It was not a question that sought enlightenment; it was not put to Jesus in order to learn from Him. No. It was put to Jesus to trap Him.

Was He to be seen as an insurrectionist revolutionary and an enemy of the State or was He to be seen as a collaborator with the hated Roman authorities who so brutalized the Jewish people?

The Pharisees, the religious fundamentalists of the day, hated the Roman tax. The Herodians, those Jews who supported the Roman puppet King Herod, supported the tax.

Both groups, the Pharisees and the Herodians, hated each other. But here we find them joined together in a combined effort to trap Jesus, to discredit Him, and thus do away with Him, each trying to trap Jesus for their own reasons.

With a canny response Jesus discredits, them both. Here we find Jesus in His response to their tricky question asking them for a coin, which they gave Him.

Note that both they and Jesus were in the Temple area when this incident took place. Note, also, that the Roman coin had carved upon it the image of the infamous Tiberius Caesar, the one who had so desecrated the Jewish Temple.

The coin also bore the inscription: “Tiberius Caesar – Son of the Divine Augustus”. On the coin’s other side, it designated him as “Pontifex Maximus”, supreme priest. For Jews, this was blasphemous idolatry.

The fact that they had carried that coin with them into the Temple precincts tells us that they thereby discredited themselves. No good Jew would be caught with such a coin on the Temple’s grounds, the holiest site in all of Judaism.

Furthermore, we need to realize that Jesus’ response was directed at the precise issue of whether or not the Roman taxes should be paid. Jesus said nothing about the autonomy of Caesar in his secular role. Nor was Jesus making any statement at all about separating religion from society.

So, these questions remain: What is Caesar’s, and what is God’s? Is there anything at all that is not God’s – is there anything at all in human activity that does not stand under God’s judgment?

Are we, as modern-day Americans, exempting anything from God’s purview? Separation of church and state has benefited us here in the United States. We have a democracy, not a theocracy, and that has served us well.

We do not have a state religion; we have freedom of religion. We are free to practice our religious beliefs as we choose. But where is it written that freedom of religion means freedom from religion?

Are people of faith obliged not to express their beliefs and put them into practice in the public domain? We must remember that while rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s we must still render to God what is God’s.

Freedom of religion isn’t confined to how one worships on Sunday. People of belief should be able to practice in public what they hold to in Sunday worship free of governmental controls and mandates.

What is Caesar’s and what is God’s? The question is just as important to us now as it was when it was put to Jesus. And so is its answer.

So, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”: How?  It is the duty of Christians, as citizens of the country, to pay for the services and the privileges that government provides, like paved roads, police and fire departments, banks, schools and other necessities.

If we refuse to pay taxes, how will these needs be met?  Another way of giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s is to participate actively in the running of the government, electing the most suitable candidates and influencing them through frequent contacts.

Third, we must submit to the civil authorities and respect the laws of our country in order to live in peace. Be Blessed and be a Blessing. Amen.

 

 

28th Sunday O T Year A – 17

28th Sunday O T Year A – 17

Is 25:6-10; Phil4:12-14, 19-20; Matt 22:1-10

Life is full of opportunities knocking at our doors waiting to be opened. It is full of chances by which we can enjoy life to the fullest. But they are not always there forever.

We have to grab the opportunity while we have the time and the chance or else, we ended up blaming, not others, but ourselves. Invitation Is an example of opportunities knocking at our door to be opened.

But instead of us getting off our feet to open the door, we complain about the noise.

There is a story of a young man who went to other places in search of fortune. A few years later, he returned to his place with several passenger jeeps loaded with riches.

“Now, I am going to play a trick on my relatives and friends,” he said to himself. He donned some rugged clothes and went to see his cousin Pedro, first. “I’m your long-lost cousin, Juan.

I’m back home after several years in other places. Just look at me how miserable I am. May I stay with you for a while?” he said. Pedro said: “I’m sorry, but there is no room here for you.”

Juan visited some of his relatives and friends but he was not accepted any of them.

So, he decided and returned to where he put his riches, dressed himself in luxurious clothes, rode through his place with a large entourage of servants and purchased all those businesses about to close down and bought a majestic mansion.

After only two days, the news of his riches had spread all over the place. “Who could have imagined it,” said one of the relatives and friends who rejected him, “if we had only known, we would have acted differently, but it is too late now. We missed the riches.”

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us the parable of the wedding feast prepared by a king for his son. Calves and fattened cattle were killed and a long list of guests is drawn up which includes the wealthiest and most respected people in the kingdom.

Clearly, he wants a wedding feast that will be remembered with joy by his son and the prospective daughter-in-law. When everything is ready, the invited guests are summoned to come. But they refused to come.

Instead, they pursued their own travel and work plans. The king resorted to an unheard move; he invited all kinds of people.

Can you imagine a powerful leader inviting laborers, farmers, fishermen, urban poor and even beggars and others to a wedding celebration?

But there yet is another surprise. All are invited – sinners and righteous, unworthy and worthy persons but not all are allowed to stay.

Jesus explains that though the Kingdom of God is open to all, accepting the invitation means accepting the responsibility and challenge of Christian discipleship.

If we accept the invitation, we must put on “wedding garments,” (v. 11). The insistence of wearing wedding garments is a warning for each one of us about the future to come.

So, we must clothe ourselves in the garment of virtuous living or a good life. Mere membership in the church or in religious organizations and church ministries or charitable institutions does not guarantee us salvation.

To own salvation, we must have a virtuous living. There are several signs by which we may lose that invitation by God to be in His Kingdom.

Like such attitudes and actions as: “I will not attend or hear mass because I have to do my laundry today”; “I will not attend Mass this Sunday because I have unfinished business transaction, anyway, I’ll attend next Sunday”;

“I’ll not attend the meeting this Sunday because it’s our family day and our household meeting or not feeling well or I’ll go to the market, anyway Christ will understand my situation.”

By saying, “Christ will understand my situation,” we are bribing God in presenting to Him our situation and yet we are given so much time and opportunities to do all those things. We hurt God.

And so, we must drink the Christian BEER and that is B for Bible reading. E for Eucharist- to attend the Eucharist celebration and to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

The second E is expression of love, especially to those that nobody loves them and then love God and us. And the last word R is for Rosary, by loving our mother Mary by praying the Rosary daily.

To become a participant of the kingdom of God is a privilege as well as a responsibility. The responsibility is to accept the condition of undergoing a radical transformation.

It is a transformation from self-centeredness to God centeredness, form hatred to forgiveness, from egoism to altruism and from greediness to sharing.

The followers of Jesus are called to create the kingdom of God situation wherever they are:

The school in which one teaches, the company or department where one works, the parish where one is a pastor, the old age home where one cares for the aged, the orphanage where one becomes a mother/father to the orphans etc.

The early Christians by following the way of Jesus created just, harmonious and inclusive communities on the model of the kingdom of God. Let us take inspiration from them and replicate such communities in the context in which we live and work.

Be Blessed and be a Blessing. Amen.

 

 

27th Sunday O T Year A – 17

27th Sunday O T Year A – 17

Is.5: 1-7, Phil 4: 6-9, Mt.21: 33-43

A lady answered the door to find a man standing there.  He had a sad expression on his face.  “I’m sorry to disturb you” he said, “I’m collecting money for an unfortunate family in the neighborhood.

The husband is out of work, the kids are hungry, and their utilities will soon be cut off.  Worse yet, they’re going to be kicked out of their apartment if they don’t pay the rent by this afternoon.”

“I’ll be happy to help,” said the woman.  Then she asked, “But who are you?”  He replied, “I’m the landlord!”

The common theme of today’s readings is the necessity of bearing fruit in the Christian life and the consequent punishment for spiritual sterility, ingratitude and wickedness.

In today’s first reading, called “Isaiah’s Song of the Vineyard,” the prophet describes God’s care of, and expectations for, His Chosen People. God’s chosen people have failed to bear fruit in spite of the blessings lavished upon them by a loving and forgiving God.

Further, they have been poor tenants in the Lord’s vineyard. Hence, God laments: “I expected my vineyard to yield good grapes. Why did it yield sour ones instead?”

In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 80), the psalmist pleads with God to look down from Heaven and to “take care of this vine,” knowing that if any good is to come of the vine, it will be God’s doing and not the people’s.

In the second reading, Paul tells Philippians about the high expectations he has for them, reminding them that they need to become fruit-producing Christians by praying and giving thanks and by practicing justice, purity and graciousness in their lives.

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, reminds us that since we are the “new” Israel, enriched with additional blessings and provisions in the Church, we are expected to show our gratitude to God by bearing fruits of the Kingdom, that is, the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, in our lives.

The parable reflects the frictions in tenant-landlord relations in Palestine. Most of the vineyards were owned by rich, absentee landlords living in Jerusalem, Damascus or Rome who leased their lands to tenants and were interested only in collecting rent.

The country was seething with economic unrest. The working people were discontented and rebellious, and the tenant farmers had picked up the revolutionary slogan, “land for the farmer.”

Hence, they often refused to pay the rent previously agreed upon and in some cases assaulted the landowner’s representatives.  It is natural, then, that Jesus’ parable should reflect the popular hatred of foreign domination and the monopolizing of agricultural land by a rich minority who supported Roman rule.

What’s the one of the big things that has preoccupied you & me since we were children and throughout all of the years that have followed? Isn’t it fear of rejection? Let us recall our early days as a child.

Even as a tiny baby you & me screamed, shrieked, and cried if you & me were not held, cuddled, and loved by our mothers and our fathers. As a child, you & me craved to play with playmates and you were miserable if they didn’t want to play with you.

And when you were a teenager? Well, words can’t begin to describe the pain and fear teenager experiences when faced with rejection.

With all of the rejection we give each other, and in the midst of all of the rejection we ourselves experience, do we ever stop and consider how God has been hurt by our rejection of His love for us?

Jesus looked out over Jerusalem and cried: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you refused!”  Then they crucified him.

We don’t like to admit it, but many times we reject God. Oh, we deny that… but in fact we do. How many times has there been when we just couldn’t be bothered by God. How many people act as if God simply doesn’t matter?

Then there’s the matter of rejecting God’s forgiveness. We are simply ignorant of the horrific sin that it is, slapping God in the face, declaring that God, God’s love, God’s forgiveness, simply doesn’t matter; that we can’t be bothered with it.

How many people do we know who should be here with us at Mass but are not because they can’t be bothered, have more important things to do than to receive God’s love?

How can God forgive us if we think it doesn’t matter? The pain of rejection is horrible. That pain is made crystal clear and perfectly evident when we take a good look at the crucifix and understand its profound message, namely our rejection of God’s love for us.

That’s why there’s a human body hanging on it. It’s not an empty cross, it’s a cross loaded to the full, with rejection, the worst kind of pain that any of us can ever experience. The crucifix presents us with God is nailed and immobilized because we won’t listen to him!

There’s no defense against rejection. No words can deal with rejection.

There’s nothing we can do against it — which is perhaps why Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the personification of human judgment and rejection, and stood there in utter silence. Words simply cannot deal with the reality of rejection. Nothing can.

The parable we just heard in the Gospel is more than just a parable about us. It is, rather, a glimpse into God’s heart. It tells us about how He feels, about the hurt and pain He experiences at our hands.

So, when you are experiencing rejection, and when the fear of rejection is overpowering within you, give some time to being alone with Christ. He’s here for you all of the time, twenty-four hours a day. He’s here in the Mass. He’s here in the Blessed Sacrament.

He’s here in His house waiting for you to come and visit Him. Why not pay Him a visit from time to time? Why not come here and spend some time with Him? He’d love that, you know.

He’d love to have someone come and give Him some time alone with Him, along with some words of love for Him. He knows rejection, and in His infinite love and caring for us, He gives us His power to overcome rejection and know what it is to love and be loved in return.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

26th Sunday, O T Year A – 17

26th Sunday, O T Year A – 17

Eze.18:25-28/ Phil.2:1-11/ Matt.21:28-32

Life has many contradictions, many paradoxes and many reversals of fortunes. What may seem to be a good thing may turn out bad. What may seem to be a bad thing may turn out good. But we can only see the present in its limitation, we can only comprehend the here and now.

We don’t know about the future, so we judge everything as good and bad according to how we see it now. For example, if one of our children is rather slow, or naughty, or not very pleasing to us.

What will be our attitude towards that child, as compared to the rest of our children who might be cleverer, or smarter, or better looking or more capable? Surely, we will favor the “better” one.

As for the other one, we will just have to accept him although we will not have much hopes or expectations from him. Yet, life has shown us over and over again that there are many paradoxes and many reversals of fortunes.

This is also a recurring theme in the Bible, that the first will be last and the last first. Jesus told parables like the rich man and Lazarus, the prodigal son, the workers in the harvest (last week) to tell us about the paradoxes and reversals in life.

Today he told another parable of two sons and their obedience to their father. The father asked both sons to go and work in the vineyard. The first said no but later changed his mind and went. The other said yes but yet did not go.

Jesus actually addressed this parable to the chief priests and elders. The tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners were like the first son.

They sinned, but when they heard the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness, they repented and turned back to God.

On the other hand, the chief priest and the elders were like the second son who said yes to all that God has commanded but yet did nothing to change their lives.

In many ways, this parable is also addressed to us to make us reflect on how we view people and how we treat them. If I were asked what the main theme of today’s reading were all about I would say it’s about honest sincerity.

Honesty is at the core of our truly religious expressions, particularly being honest with ourselves. Sin, we must remember, originates with the Father of Lies, and when we lie to ourselves we always get into deep trouble.

In the Gospel account, we just heard the younger brother tell his father: “Yes, I’ll go and work” while the older brother said: “No, not me.” Both used words contrary to their actions.

Talk is cheap. The younger brother simply didn’t live up to his words; the older brother changed his mind. The older brother had integrity; the younger brother gave cheap, valueless words to his father while having no intention at all of working.

How many of us recognize ourselves in that younger brother? The older brother had no intention of working and then had the honesty of saying so to his father. He was wrong, but he was honest.

The younger brother was the opposite. He said the expedient thing to his father knowing what his father wanted to hear but he had no integrity. He was insincere because he had no intention of working even though he said he would.

How many of us pray that way? We give God the words of our prayers, words we think He wants to hear from us. It’s convenient for us. We may even be self-deluded when we speak them and end up feeling like we are pious and religious.

On the surface, we feel righteous but deep down we know full well that we are not going to follow through on those words with our deeds and our actions. So, we give God our Father in heaven nice sounding words but never seem to get around to following through on them.

God is not fooled but we fool ourselves. The reality of life is that we favor those who are more pleasing to us, but we are indifferent or ignore those whom we think do not meet our hopes and expectations.

There is a story of a couple, who had a few children. All were normal and intelligent. Except one who had Down’s Syndrome and hence was slow and different from the rest.

The couple took joy in their children but for this special child, they had to swallow their disappointment and embarrassment. At times, they even asked themselves why they were burdened with such a child.

It seems that they will have to care for him all their lives. As the years went by, the rest of their children got married and left home to start their own families. As the couple became older, their children also became busier with their own families.

Naturally, the couple felt lonelier with all their children gone. Except for one, the slow “special” one. Because of his inabilities and disabilities, he obviously had to stay with his parents.

In the past, the parents thought of him as a burden and an obstacle to their freedom in life. But now, the old couple realized that he is the only one who is with them day and night.

Once upon a time, he had to depend on them and they had to fend for him. Now it seems that in their lonely old age, it is they who have to depend on him despite his inabilities and disabilities. It is just another story about how life has many paradoxes and reversals of fortune or status.

Let us not ignore these whom we think are of little or no use to us or those who are not pleasing to us and give us problems. God loves these people as much as He loves us.

And the paradox of life is that God will turn these people into His instruments to show us His love. So, let us accept those whom we think may not count for much in life. A time will come when they will show us what really counts in life. Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.

 

25th Sunday O T Year – A – 17

25th Sunday O T Year – A – 17

Is.55:6-9; Phil.20-24, 27; Matt.20:1-16

I read a story long time ago that one day a great crowd gathered outside the gates of heaven. There was a great anticipation and restlessness as to what would happen next. St. Peter was seen whispering something to Jesus. After some tensed moments, St. Peter came out with an announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a predicament here. If we go by the record, none of you will qualify for heaven. But God is good and generous.

On behalf of the Blessed Trinity, I hereby declare general amnesty! Open the gates and let the heavenly feast begin. There was tremendous applause and rejoicing as the gates of heaven were partly opened. Then St. Peter took the microphone again. Everyone was quiet. “There will be final test though, but the general amnesty still stands!” With that, the gates were thrown wide open and everybody started coming in.

There was a group that refused to come in. The group’s members went to St. Peter with a complaint: “We sacrificed much and worked hard on earth. We followed your Ten Commandments. We prayed regularly. We went to Mass every day. Some of us were catechists, lay cooperators, Eucharistic ministers and church workers. How come we get the same reward as the others who lived dirty and useless lives? That’s unfair!” And they refused to enter heaven.

In fact they organized a protest rally and pitched their tents outside the gates of heaven. “Well, that was the final test,’ St. Peter said. They were forever barred from heaven, why? It is because they were still selfish, arrogant and proud. They were thinking of their merits instead of rejoicing in God’s generosity. Such will be the case of people who are selfish, envious and self-righteous.

Today’s readings are all about the sense of justice and the extravagant grace of a merciful God. While God is both just and merciful, God’s mercy often overrides His justice and, hence, God pardons us unconditionally and rewards us generously by opening Heaven for the Gentiles and the Jews.

One of the things I like about this parable is that it makes me angry or at least get a strong reaction out of me. You and I are supposed to get angry at some of the conclusions of the parables, and then only we pause to reflect on why we are angry. It is then that we get the meaning of “God’s grand reversal.”

A fresh apple pie fills the kitchen with its tantalizing aroma. The expectations are high as the family gathers around and the Grandma cuts the pie into equal pieces. Even little Jimmy gets a big slice. Hey! He didn’t even help to make the pie. Why should he get that much!” complains his sister, who helped Grandma slice the apples. The other siblings join in with similar complaints, but the Grandma only smiles and hands Jimmy a fork. “We are all part of the family,” Grandma replies. “Why don’t you all just enjoy what you have got? It is plenty!”

God’s rewards are not earned. They are gifts. As someone said: Rule number one is, God is gracious. Rule number two is, leaning rule number one.” God’s ways are not our ways. And this takes us to the first reading in which the prophet Isaiah reminds the exiles in Babylon that their God is more merciful than they are, and more forgiving. He is ready to pardon their infidelity which has resulted in their exile. Their merciful God will bless them with material and spiritual blessings.

In the second reading, Paul offers himself as an example of total submission to God’s grace. He is ready to live continuing his mission if that is God’s will. At the same time he is ready to die and join the Lord if that is God’s will. Paul was a latecomer in God’s vineyard, preaching the Gospel. But he worked with zeal and interest to spread God’s News of Redemption and Salvation for all. Paul is an example of how grace operates. Being a Christian means accepting God’s word without explanation or justification.

Today’s Gospel is known as “the Parable of Workers in the Vineyard” or “the Parable of the Generous Landlord.” This remarkable and rather startling parable is found only in Matthew. A priest in New Orleans after Katrina saw a child with one shoe. He asked where she had lost the other. The girl replied, “I didn’t. I found this one.” God tells us through this parable: “Don’t cut me down to your size. You fashion God to your image, but I am an original.” This may be the most puzzling of the forty parables of Jesus.

The aim of the parable is a warning to the disciples. Jesus teaches his disciples not to claim any special honor or any special place because they are closely associated with him or because they are the first members of his Church. All the people, no matter when they come, are equally precious to God. Similarly, long-time Church members should expect no special preference over recent members.

It may be a definite warning to the Jews. As the chosen people of God, the Jews looked down upon the Gentiles. Jesus warns them that the Gentiles who put their faith in God will have the same reward a good Jew may expect. Matthew, by retelling this parable, may well desire to give the same warning to the members of his Judeo-Christian community who considered the Gentile Christians as second-class Christians.

It may be an explanation by Jesus of His love for the publicans and sinners. Through this parable, Jesus describes the loving concern, generosity and mercy of God his Father for all His children, which Jesus reflects in his life.

The parable suggests that we can’t work our way into heaven because by our own strength we can never do enough good in this life to earn our everlasting reward. That is why God expects us to cooperate with His grace for doing good and avoiding evil. Salvation comes to us by God’s grace and our cooperation with it. It is a blend of faith and works. Amen

 

Extra example:

Let us reflect this reflection entitled, “Funny, Isn’t It?” by an unknown author. It runs this way:

It is Funny how a $100 bill looks so big when you take it to church, but so small when you take it to the mall. Funny how long it takes to serve God for an hour, but how quickly a team plays 60 minutes of basketball. Funny how long a couple of hours spent at church are, but how short they are when watching a movie.

Funny how we can’t think of anything to say when we pray, but don’t have difficulty thinking of things to talk about to a friend. Funny how we get thrilled when a baseball game goes into extra innings, but we complain when a sermon is longer than the regular time.

Funny how hard it is to read a chapter in the Bible, but how easy it is to read 100 pages of a best-selling novel. Funny how people want to get a front seat at any game or concert, but scramble to get a backseat at church services.

Funny how we need 2 or 3 weeks advance notice to fit a church event into our schedule, but can adjust our schedule for a last minute party. Funny how hard it is for people to learn a simple gospel well enough to tell others, but how simple it is for the same people to understand and repeat gossip.

Funny how we believe what the newspaper says, but question what the Bible says. Funny how everyone wants to go to heaven provided they do not have to believe, or think, or say, or do anything.

Funny how you can send a thousand jokes through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending message how many on your list are not receiving it because you are not sure they believe in anything.

FUNNY, ISN’T IT? Spread the WORD and give thanks to the LORD for HE is GOOD! Amen.

24th Sunday, O T Year A – 17

24th Sunday, O T Year A – 17

Sir.27:30—28:7, Rom.14:7-9, Matt.18:21-35

The great British convert and apologist G. K. Chesterton once said, “Forgiving means to pardon the unpardonable, or it is no virtue at all.” By contrast, you and I often are willing only to forgive if we deem someone’s sins not too serious or offensive.

Today Jesus challenges us to go further in being instruments of His mercy. One way to realize to what extent we ought to extend mercy to others is to turn the table. We ought each day to consider how much God Himself has blessed us in showing us His mercy.

We ought to reflect on how each day we act sinfully, in a way that calls for God’s mercy. All of us long to find a place where we are at home, where we are trusted. But even more importantly, we long to find a place where we can be forgiven, for we know that there are times when we fail to live up to the trust that people place in us.

We might ask ourselves, “Which is more important to me: trust or forgiveness?” If we look to our own experience, it’s easy to answer these questions. If we consider the workplace, we can hope that our employers or supervisors might be patient and help us when we have trouble with a task.

But if we were to imagine our worst Monday, a day in which hour after hour produced nothing but terrible results, and finally ends in a major blunder or misjudgment, we would naturally expect to receive a pink slip instead of forgiveness.

Businesses have to trust people, or they wouldn’t have any employees. But they do not have to forgive endlessly. They can only tolerate a certain amount of error. After that, the relationship is over.

All of us long to find a place where we feel at home, which first and foremost means a place where we know we can experience forgiveness. Home is not simply where the heart is, but where the forgiving heart is.

The home in which we find the deepest sort of forgiveness, a selfless and generous forgiveness that seeks to build up the one who has transgressed: this is our truest home. The Church, in which we share in the Body of Christ, is our truest home.

By right, we should feel most at home there, before its altar, because it is there that we revel in the source of all forgiveness. When the priest speaks those words that Christ spoke at the Last Supper, we are taken into that home where forgiveness was first given by the God-man, when he said,

“This is the Cup of My Blood. It will be shed for you and for all, so that sins may be forgiven….”

But in our home here, we find not only forgiveness.

In our home, the Church, when we share in the Eucharist, we give thanks not only for the forgiveness wrought by Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross. We also give thanks for the fact that when we share fully in this sacrament, we receive not only a share in Christ’s forgiveness.

We receive a share in the life of Christ himself. We receive not only the Forgiver’s forgiveness. We receive the Forgiver. To receive forgiveness is to be restored to our former self. But to receive the Forgiver:

This means not simply that we’re restored to our former self, but that we’re raised from our state of sinfulness even beyond our old self, to a share in the life of the Forgiver’s Self.

We share in the life of Christ, and so are asked to offer forgiveness to others as Christ does: to all persons, in all circumstances, forever. Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.

There is the story of a man named George Wilson who in 1830 killed a government employee who caught him in the act of robbing the mails. He was tried and condemned to death by hanging. But the then President of the United States, Andrew Jackson granted him executive pardon.

George Wilson, however, refused to accept the pardon. The Department of Corrections did not know what to do. The case was taken to the Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Marshall ruled that “a pardon is a slip of paper, the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned.

If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged.” And hanged he was. Even if we are opposed to the death penalty, we still cannot but agree with the principle that pardon granted has to be accepted to become effective.

This is the point of today’s gospel. When God forgives us, we must accept God’s forgiveness. But then the gospel goes on to indicate that the way to accept God’s forgiveness is not just to say “Amen, so be it!” but to go out and forgive somebody.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant raises the frightening prospect that pardon already granted by God could be revoked. The king who forgave his servant his debt meant it. But when the servant went out and failed to forgive somebody, the king revoked the pardon.

By his action the servant had shown that he did not appreciate and therefore was unworthy of the pardon he had been given. Is this a good analogy of how God deals with us? That seems to be the point of the parable.

“So, my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matt.18:35). In other words, when God gives us His word of forgiveness, everything is not over yet.

The deal is finally concluded only when we are able to go out and forgive those who sin against us. The free grace of God’s forgiveness needs our response of forgiving our neighbor to be finally ratified.

Isn’t that a frightening thought? “Forgive your neighbors the wrong they have done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray” (Sirach 28:2).

Why do we find it hard to forgive others even though that is the only way to anchor God’s forgiveness? I think the reason is because we fail to appreciate and celebrate our own forgiveness.

Like the ungrateful servant in the parable, we focus on the 100 denarii our neighbor owes us rather than the 10,000 talents we owe to God, which God has graciously cancelled.

But God in his infinite mercy sent his own Son to die on the cross and take away our sins. And all He asks of us is to be grateful; to realize that He has done for us so much more than we could ever be required to do for our neighbor.

If we find ourselves in the club of those who find it so hard to forgive other people, chances are that we have not come to appreciate and celebrate enough the immeasurable forgiveness that we ourselves have received from God.

So, let us pray today for a deeper appreciation of the amazing love that God has shown us in Christ. It is this awareness that will make it easier for us to let others off the hook for their relatively minor offences against us.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.