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Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time- October 22, 2017 Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time- October 22, 2017
In the scriptures, being anointed usually meant you were a prophet or king of Israel. So why is Cyrus given that title? Cyrus was king of Persia when the Babylonians held the people of Israel captive. God used him to defeat the Babylonians and eventually bring the Israelites back to their homes.
One thing this tells us is that God can work through anyone, not just saints and religious. Any time someone does a good deed, God is behind it. Just as God used Cyrus to free the Israelites from their Babylonian captivity, God can use governments to protect the poor, to help rebuild after disasters, or to defend freedom.
In that sense, we can understand what Jesus says about payment to Caesar and to God. Since everything belongs to God, that should be our first allegiance. But when God works through governments, we can give some support to them, by such activities as voting or paying taxes. Let us ask God to work through us also, helping us to proclaim that God alone is LORD.
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time- October 15, 2017 Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time- October 15, 2017
Why would invited guests refuse to come to a wedding? Free food and drink, music and dancing--what's not to like? By this time, Jesus knew that many of the Jewish leaders would not accept the invitation to follow him. As we know, after the Resurrection the disciples began to spread the good news not only to other Jews, but to anyone who would listen.
One reason the leaders in Israel did not accept Jesus was his association with sinners. They did not understand that God calls sinners to repent and be forgiven. Ordinary people, who knew they were sinners, were attracted by the offer of forgiveness. Many of them repented and came to be baptized. As the parable says, they filled the banquet hall.
So what about the man in the parable who came in street clothes? The wedding garment was a symbol of the baptismal gown, the sign of new life in Christ. So this man symbolizes those who "come to the feast" without repenting of their sins.
We can be like that man sometimes. We come to church, arguing with our spouse on the way. We bring our prejudices, lies, anger, and selfishness--with no intention of doing anything about them. We come with the attitude that says, "I'm here, aren't I? That should be good enough." But it's not. By dying for our sins, Jesus calls us to come back to God. So repentance is not just a change of clothing, it is a change of heart. It is our ticket to the banquet, our way of saying, "I know I don't deserve this, but thanks for letting me share the feast."  Read more...
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time- October 8, 2017 Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time- October 8, 2017
Jesus' parable is a little different from the one in the first reading. Isaiah has the vineyard under good and faithful care, but still it produces wild grapes. In the Gospel, the vineyard presumably had a good harvest, but the workers refuse to give any of the grapes to the landowner. Where do I fit in?
Do I ignore all that God does to help me be a good disciple? Am I too busy to take time to pray or read the Bible? Do I hold onto grudges instead of forgiving and releasing them? Do I decline the invitations to go on a retreat? If any of these are true, I might be like the vineyard in the first reading, producing no fruit despite all the opportunities God has given me.
Or we may be the other side of the coin. We had our children baptized when they were babies. We gave them as good an example as we could, teaching them to love others and be generous with what they have. Yet they grew up and drifted away from the faith. Then we have to remember how patient God is with us, God's people who don't always produce the fruits of faith.
The tenants in the parable refer to those who would have Jesus crucified. God is patient with them. Look what happened to Saul, who persecuted many Christians before he became one himself. In our second reading he tells us to follow his example as he follows Christ. Then, he says, the peace of God will be with us, too (Philippians 4:6-9).  Read more...
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time- October 1, 2017 Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time- October 1, 2017
Jesus must have shocked the priests and elders when he said that prostitutes and tax collectors would enter the kingdom of God before them. After all, his listeners had spent their whole lives being faithful to the Law. But Jesus' point was not so much about final salvation as about our daily choices.
Remember the parable about the two sons. The second son said what his father wanted to hear, with no intention of doing it. The first was honest about not wanting to go to the vineyard, but then decided to do it anyway. I suspect the father of those men knew what each would or would not do.
And whom do we want to imitate? Are we honest enough to look at our lives and repent of our hatred, our selfishness, or whatever keeps us in sin, and then to follow Jesus with our whole heart? We may not always like doing what God asks of us, but God is an understanding Father who can accept our weaknesses and forgive them when we are ready to return to him.  Read more...
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time- September 24, 2017 Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time- September 24, 2017
Notice any difference between the attitude of Paul in the second reading and that of the workers in the Matthew's Gospel? The workers grumble because the latecomers got the same pay as those who worked all day. Paul has worked for the Lord for years, yet he thinks it is better to keep working than to claim his reward of eternal life.
The workers grumbled because the landowner gave the same wages to the ones who only worked for an hour. (You can imagine the picket signs: Vinedressers Local on Strike: Management Unfair!) Matthew was referring to the Jews who had served God for centuries and now see newcomer Gentiles claiming equality in the church. They were complaining about God's generosity in reaching out to all peoples, not just the chosen few. God's generosity is the real point. Contrast that with Paul, who loves the Philippians so much that he is willing to put off his heavenly reward if he can help any more people come to Christ. That is the attitude that Jesus hopes for in all his disciples. We can care more about bringing Jesus to others than we do about our own comfort or even our lives. We can do this because we know the Lord's ways are not fair--they are more generous than we can imagine!  Read more...
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time- September 17, 2017 Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time- September 17, 2017
Why should we forgive those who hurt us? The gospel this Sunday gives three reasons: First, because Jesus commands it. Second, because forgiveness is part of loving one another. And third, because we want to be forgiven for our sins.
Here Jesus commands us to forgive unceasingly, without limit. Now that could be a challenge for even the most patient person. Does it mean we have to let someone hurt us over and over? No, it is possible to forgive someone and also prevent them from hurting us, if we do it with love (the second reason.) For instance, we might forgive an alcoholic family member, but still insist that they get help. Since forgiveness is part of love, it is also part of tough love.
That leads to the third reason: We forgive because we have been forgiven. Jesus has already died for our sins. If we truly believe that Jesus is risen and that we will rise to eternal life with him in spite of our sins, how can we refuse to forgive someone who hurts us?  Read more...
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time- September 10, 2017 Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time- September 10, 2017
Ever notice how people today like to ignore the evil in the world? People will witness a mugging and not bother to call the police. We see television stories of children starving in poor countries and say, "Not my problem." The readings for this Sunday challenge this attitude.



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Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time- September 3, 2017 Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time- September 3, 2017
I frequently see signs on churches inviting everyone to come. Often they advertise that they are a contemporary, casual church. One thing that concerns me is that they do not add "challenging" to that description. Some people try to teach that since Jesus is risen from the dead, we should also be able to live that way: Rejoicing, but never sorrowing. But if we preach resurrection without the cross, we are acting like Peter in the Gospel.  Read more...
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time- August 27, 2017 Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time- August 27, 2017
I wonder how many men named Peter know that originally it was a nickname. Jesus gave Simon a name based on the word for "rock." Like any good nickname, Jesus had a reason to give this one. Peter had just acknowledged Jesus to be the Son of God and the Messiah (Christ). Jesus used that as an opportunity to teach us about the importance of faith as the foundation of the church.  Read more...
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time- August 20, 2017 Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time- August 20, 2017
The first reading reminds us that even though the Jews are God's chosen people, foreigners who love the Lord will be accepted into God's house. So why is Jesus being so difficult with the Canaanite woman?
At first he seems to be putting her off. He doesn't answer her, but tells the disciples that he came only for lost sheep of Israel, adding the remark about food going to the dogs. He does this not to discourage her, but to draw a response of faith. He wants to see how persistent she is in her request.
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Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- August 13, 2017 Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- August 13, 2017
Why did Jesus walk on water to the disciples in the boat? Did he want to scare them? No, his first words to them were "Do not be afraid." While they were being tossed by wind and waves, he showed them that he was not affected by the storm. If they had had faith, they might have realized that if Jesus was safe, they would be, too. We too must make that leap of faith, especially when we are afraid.
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The Transfiguration of the Lord- August 6, 2017 The Transfiguration of the Lord- August 6, 2017
It is good that we are here. (Luke 9:33)
Put yourself in Peter’s place. God had already revealed to him that Jesus was the Messiah (Luke 9:20). And now he is standing with James and John, watching Jesus’ appearance change before his eyes.
Even though he knew in his heart who Jesus is, he must have been stunned to see this transformation. It surely renewed his determination to follow Jesus. Coming down the mountain, he undoubtedly felt that nothing could shake his resolve.
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Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 30, 2017 Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 30, 2017
The ending of today's Gospel speaks about "the new and the old." Jesus is saying that a person "instructed in the kingdom" has wisdom both old and new; in other words, that person learns from the past as well as from the present. Let's look at each of those.
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Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 23, 2017 Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 23, 2017
The first reading says that God's might is the basis for divine justice. We might take this to mean that God uses mighty power to punish sinners, in the legal sense of justice. But the reading also talks about God's lenience and clemency. So maybe God's power is so great that punishment is not necessary. Sinners can be forgiven. After all, we usually punish those we fear will hurt us again. But God is too powerful to be injured by our sins. God can afford to wait for us to repent. That is the point of the parable of the wheat and the weeds.
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Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 16, 2017 Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 16, 2017
When Jesus answers the apostles' question about why he speaks in parables, it may seem as if he is using them to confuse people. We know he is trying to spread the good news of God's kingdom. So he talks to the crowds in parables, easily understood stories that usually have a moral or that end with a question for the hearers. He uses these stories to teach the crowd.
Jesus threw out parables like a farmer sowing seeds. Some of them fell on the ears of those who would be disciples. But most fell on the ears of people not ready to understand. So how do we receive his word? Do we hear it without understanding, letting it go in one ear and out the other? Do we hear it joyfully, but then forget it when troubles or difficulties come along? Do we listen to the word but ignore it in the face of some later temptation?  Read more...
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 9, 2017 Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 9, 2017
Jesus tells us in today's Gospel that he is "meek and humble of heart." Yet just a few lines before this, he says that he is equal to his Father, the almighty God. So how can the Son of God be both meek and mighty?
For Jesus, being meek does not mean letting people push him around. If he were meek in that sense, he could not have thrown the moneychangers out of the temple. Jesus' meekness meant doing the will of God completely. The challenge for us comes in his words "learn from me." We must learn to do God's will as completely as Jesus did.  Read more...
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 2, 2017 Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- July 2, 2017
Jesus asks his disciples to have total dedication to following him. As an example, he tells us that to be worthy we must love him more than we love our parents or children. He does not expect us to abandon them, just to have so much love for Jesus that it spills over to our family, allowing us to love them more deeply. But we can be so dedicated to Jesus that he comes first. That means that if we lose a family member through death or divorce, we still keep our faith in the Lord. If we see someone in our family stray from the faith, we try to bring them back through our prayers, example, and encouragement.  Read more...
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time- June 25, 2017 Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time- June 25, 2017
“Fear no one,” Jesus says. He is talking about fearing those who persecute you for your faith. In the verses before this Gospel passage, he tries to prepare us for that persecution and says that since it was done to him (Jesus), it would be done to his followers.
But what happened to Jesus? He was crucified, but rose from the dead. So he triumphed over his persecutors; they could not stop him. And that is what he promises us. Whatever persecution, ridicule, or discrimination we suffer for our faith, we cannot be destroyed as long as we keep that faith.
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The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ- June 18, 2017 The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ- June 18, 2017
In John's Gospel, Jesus gives a long discourse on the Bread of Life. The first part talks of bread as a sign of God's loving care for the people. Like the manna in the desert, Jesus represents God caring for the people in a new way. But the part we hear in today's Gospel is more specific. He says the bread he will give is his flesh. The leaders of the Jews don't understand. Hopefully, we can do better.  Read more...