Sunday, October 15, 2017

Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A


In this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 22: 1-14), Jesus tells his disciples the parable of the wedding banquet. A king invites guests to his son’s feast, but for various excuses they don't come: They made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. In a 2011 homily Pope Benedict gave on Holy Thursday at the Mass of the Lord's Supperthe ultimate wedding banquethe reminds us:
Parable of the Wedding Feast, 14th c. Russian icon
In his heart [Jesus] awaited the moment when he would give himself to his own under the appearance of bread and wine. He awaited that moment which would in some sense be the true messianic wedding feast: when he would transform the gifts of this world and become one with his own, so as to transform them and thus inaugurate the transformation of the world. In this eager desire of Jesus we can recognize the desire of God himselfhis expectant love for mankind, for his creation. A love which awaits the moment of union, a love which wants to draw mankind to itself and thereby fulfil the desire of all creation, for creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:19). Jesus desires us, he awaits us.
But what about ourselves? Do we really desire him? Are we anxious to meet him? Do we desire to encounter him, to become one with him, to receive the gifts he offers us in the Holy Eucharist? Or are we indifferent, distracted, busy about other things? From Jesus’ banquet parables we realize that he knows all about empty places at table, invitations refused, lack of interest in him and his closeness.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

In this Sunday's Gospel (Matthew 21: 33-43), Jesus reveals through the Parable of the Tenants the importance of responding to the call of God. He is always waiting for fruit to be borne in us, always looking for the "crop of good grapes" (Isaiah 5:2). We can choose to be like the unresponsive, wicked tenants, or be as the "good soil" that Jesus describes in his Parable of the Sower. Fr. Jean Danielou S.J., a French theologian of the 20th century, brings this point to light in this text from The Lord of History:
Parable of the Tenants, by Liberale da Verona (1441–1526)
God is the husbandman, expecting, hoping, desiring such great things from us. He prepared the soil in which our souls were to grow up and flourish; he ceases not to nourish, protect and encourage their growth, all our lives long. Every circumstance of our environment is an instance of God's care for us....
The point of the Song of the Vine is that it reveals how much store God sets by the spiritual profit of our lives, and how much he depends for this upon our help.... Some things are beyond our control, and temporal success is one of these; other things are at all times within our control, such as the spiritual response we make to the situations in which the Lord is pleased to put us, or the determination to find God in all the circumstances of our life, be they joys or crosses. If we do this, everything that happens to us is nourishment for the sap of that spiritual vine, namely our eternal soul, everything co-operates in its growth to perfection.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

This Sunday's Gospel (Matthew 21: 28-32) presents us with the short but powerful Parable of the Two Sons. The first son, when asked to work in the vineyard, finally did his father's will. The second son---although he verbally agreed---did not.

Yves de Montcheuil, a French priest, theologian and chaplain to the free French of Vercors during the Second World War, was executed by the army of occupation in 1944. Having remained faithful to Christ in life and in death, Fr. de Montcheuil reveals the importance of being attentive to the will of God and the beauty in accomplishing it:
The kingdom is for each one of us the response to a personal call; it means clinging to the personal will of God which varies for each one and likewise varies according to our circumstance. God's plan seen from the human angle is not a law established once and for all but a will revealed gradually according the needs of the Church and our personal capabilities.

Indeed the kingdom is not a place where we can sit back and relax. We have to be always following Jesus without knowing beforehand where we are going, ready to discern what God is expecting of us now. We must, then, keep careful watch, wakeful, attentive, and yet peaceful, to discern this living and evolving will of God. His demands on us can make us grow; he can ask of us tomorrow what he did not ask yesterday and so these demands engage us constantly in new ways. We need to examine our motives in all we do in order to hold ourselves in readiness for God.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

In this week's Gospel, Matthew 20:1-16, we see a generous vineyard owner giving equally to all of his hired workers. Some worked long hours, others few, and yet the ownerwho is God himselfbestows his goodness on all. Why is this so? God's generosity is gratuitous and unmerited, and we benefit from it simply because we are his children. St. Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic exhortation to lay Christians, emphasizes the key to understanding this parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. He stresses that the simple act of being a Christian imparts great value, based on the merits of Christ. Perhaps it is not so much that we do great and laborious things for God, but that we are grateful for the great things God does for us. Here's part of his exhortation:
Laborers in the Vineyard,  Codex Aureus of Echternach (ca. 1030–1050)
All the members of the People of God—clergy, men and women religious, the lay faithful—are laborers in the vineyard. At one and the same time they are all the goal and subjects of Church communion as well as of participation in the mission of salvation. Every one of us possessing charisms and ministries, diverse yet complementary, works in the one and the same vineyard of the Lord.
Simply in being Christians, even before actually doing the works of a Christian, all are branches of the one fruitful vine which is Christ. All are living members of the one Body of the Lord built up through the power of the Spirit. The significance of being”  a Christian does not come about simply from the life of grace and holiness which is the primary and more productive source of the apostolic and missionary fruitfulness of Holy Mother Church. Its meaning also arises from the state of life that characterizes the clergy, men and women religious, members of secular institutes and the lay faithful.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

A challenging passage from the Gospel of Matthew (18:21-35) is presented to us today on the need to forgive others. Peter asks,“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus, calling him to imitate the infinite forgiveness of God, responds, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." Christ uses the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant to further illustrate how our mercy toward others must flow from the mercy he bestows on us. St. Augustine, commenting on this parable, writes:
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Claude Vignon (1593–1670)

There are two works of mercy which will set us free. They are briefly set down in the gospel in the Lord’s own words: Forgive and you will be forgiven, and Give and you will receive. The former concerns pardon, the latter generosity. As regards pardon he says: “Just as you want to be forgiven, so someone is in need of your forgiveness.” Again, as regards generosity, consider when a beggar asks you for something that you are a beggar to in relation to God. When we pray we are all beggars before God. We are standing at the door of a great householder, or rather, lying prostrate, and begging with tears. We are longing to receive a giftthe gift of God himself.
What does a beggar ask of you? Bread. And you, what do you ask of God, if not Christ who said: I am the living bread that has come down from heaven? Do you want to be pardoned? Then pardon others. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Do you want to receive? Give and you will receive.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Jesus's words in today's Gospel (Matthew 18: 15-20), "Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them," are a call to unity among us as individuals and as Christians. "Love," said Pope Benedict XVI, "acts as the principle that unites Christians and guarantees that their unanimous prayer is heard by the Heavenly Father." In this homily, given at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, he said:
"Deus caritas est" (1 John 4:8,16), God is love. The faith of the Church, in its entirety, is founded on this solid rock. In particular, the patient pursuit of full communion among all of Christ's disciples is based upon it: By fixing one's gaze on this truth, summit of divine revelation, it seems possible to overcome divisions and not to be discouraged, even though they continue to be gravely serious.
The Lord Jesus, who broke down the "dividing wall of hostility" (Ephesians 2:14) with the blood of his passion, will not fail to grant to those who faithfully invoke him the strength to heal every wound. But it is always necessary to start anew from this point: "Deus caritas est."

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

If anyone wishes to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. These are difficult words, which Jesus addresses to his disciples - including us - in today's Gospel (Matthew 16: 21-27). Who by nature welcomes suffering? And yet Our Lord does not tell us to take up our cross and follow our own path, but, Follow me. We are not alone. Jesus prepares the way, as Pope Francis tells us:
Christ Carrying the Cross, (ca, 1565) Titian
Our Lord’s command seems hard and heavy, that anyone who wants to follow him must renounce himself. But no command is hard and heavy when it comes from one who helps to carry it out. That other saying of his is true: My yoke is easy and my burden light. Whatever is hard and his commands is made easy by love....
Who would not wish to follow Christ to supreme happiness, perfect peace, and lasting security? We shall do well to follow him there, but we need to know the way. The Lord Jesus had not yet risen from the dead when he gave this invitation. His passion was still before him; he had still to endure the cross, to face outrages, reproaches, scourging; to be pierced by thorns, wounded, insulted, taunted, and put to death. The road seems rough, you draw back, you do not want to follow Christ. Follow him just the same. The road we made for ourselves is rough, but Christ has levelled it by passing over it himself.