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.