33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2017

33A.   Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31.  As the master in the Gospel readings entrusted his possessions to his servants, likewise the husband entrusts his heart to his wife.  She does not let him down, for “she brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life.”  It is her heart that moves her hands to the good of her husband, the poor and the needy and not her charm or beauty that give useful service all the years of her life.  “The woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  This is not the fear that is crippling and trembling but the Old Testament fear that respects God as the God over us to be glorified and obeyed in all that we are and do.

Matthew 25:14-30.  In this parable the master entrusts his possessions to his servants to each in proportion “according to his ability.”  When the master came back, he settled accounts with them.  The first two servants doubled their master’s possessions but the third simply returned the master’s possessions without any increase, since he had done nothing.  To the first two the master said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  Then he rewards them with even greater responsibilities, saying, “Come, share your master’s joy.”  However, to the third he says, “You wicked, lazy servant!” and orders him to be thrown into the darkness outside, calling him a useless servant.  Those who show themselves to be responsible with the master’s possessions will be rewarded greatly but those who are not, shall be punished severely.  St. Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians (5:10): “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”  Clearly the master that Jesus is referring to in this parable is himself.  Some say that the possessions or talents that Jesus is referring to are our various abilities.  I think Jesus is referring to the graces he gives us to make ourselves and the world around us better, thus giving him glory and building his kingdom.  His graces are a share in his infinite power with us to enable us to do his will here on earth.  As it says in the Our Father prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  To refuse to respond affirmatively to God’s graces to better ourselves and the world around us is to put everything into the devil’s hands to deal destructively with us and the world around us.  Evil is defined by our refusal to use God’s graces, i.e. to respond to God’s intervention within us to move us in the direction he wants us to go, and thus we are an unresponsive, irresponsible people.  In the Nicene Creed we say every Sunday, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”  Jesus will simply read back to us our lives.  That will be our testament either to our eternal salvation or destruction.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6.  Paul writes, “For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.”  The ‘day of the Lord’ is an expression that meant the Second Coming of Jesus that was to be the end of the universe and the final judgment day for all.  Paul goes on to criticize the attitude that says ‘Peace and security,’ that is there is nothing to be worried about.  All is well and we do not have to be responsible to any God.  We have everything under our control. But Paul writes, “therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober,” be ready and not caught irresponsibly unprepared as useless servants.

 

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 8, 2020

32A20.   Wisdom 6:12-16.   Wisdom here is personified as a woman who brings the beauty of her wisdom or penetrating understanding to all who wish to grasp far more than the superficial.  The old expression ‘mother wit’ seemed to capture the idea of a wisdom that a simple young girl had to develop to raise young children and steer a young husband so to have a nurturing wholesome home.  Wisdom is developed with the abundant presence of the Holy Spirit who enables us to avoid the pitfalls of getting lost in the emotions that lead one to wander hopelessly in the deviant directions that this world can take us.  Wisdom “makes her rounds, seeking those worthy of her, and graciously appears to them in the ways, and meets them with all solicitude.”  That wisdom is the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 25:1-13.   Jesus’ parables are pointed, i. e., do not intend to say everything but just make a simple point. By our baptism we are promised or betrothed to the Lord.  The ten virgins or betrothed represent the assembly or people of the Church whose task it is to prepare themselves to be joined as in a marriage, just as a bride and groom, to God for all eternity.  We are a mixed community or assembly, some who take that preparation seriously and some who do not.  The foolish, that is to say, those who did not act wisely, did not prepare themselves to meet the Lord whenever he might come.  The oil that would give them the light to see through the darkness of this world is a life of holiness or union with the Holy Spirit.  Without that light we cannot make our way.  If God comes to call us and we are not ready, the door will be locked.  If we do not strive to be holy day in and day out, making ourselves ready for the Lord whenever he calls us from this life, we will hear him say to us: “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.”  There is no happy ending for those who live foolishly, not wisely.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  Apparently some of the Thessalonians were thinking that those who had died, which is to say ‘fallen asleep’, before the Lord came the second time at the end of the world, would not be taken up to heaven because they did not stay alive to wait for the Lord’s arrival.  Paul assures them that all, both those who died in Christ and those who remained on earth alive in Christ “shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore, console one another with these words.” November is the end of the liturgical year when we must contemplate our spiritual readiness to greet the Lord as we get closer and closer to our last days here on earth.  Now especially we ought to consider his call to stand before him in judgment.  May our life in Christ grow and strengthen daily.

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2017

32A.   Wisdom 6:12-16.  This reading & the psalm calls upon us to see religion far more as a warm relationship that is to be nurtured and developed and grown in our hearts.  I personally see growth in wisdom as primarily the work of God the Holy Spirit so to lead us by union with Jesus to God the Father.  The more we seek it, the more we will find it.  In turn the more we use the wisdom of the Spirit to gain knowledge of the Will of God the Father and in light of that knowledge to become ever more obedient to God’s Will, the closer the Spirit will come to us  to enlighten us even more.  The Spirit will breathe God’s divine life into us so that that is the life we actually live daily.  Jesus in the Parable of the Talents (Mt. 25:29) said: “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Matthew 25:1-13.  What is this oil that the five virgins had and the other five did not have?  It is the holiness that they have tended to and nurtured over the years that shows that the light or flame of the presence of the Spirit is within them.  They were prepared for the coming of the groom, Jesus, when he was to finally come to call them to be his own in heaven.  The foolish ones had no oil, no holiness because in their foolishness they did not seek the wisdom of the Spirit to grow in the grace or holiness that would show that the flame or the life of the Spirit dwelled within them.  Because the oil of holiness was lacking in the life of the foolish, the Lord, the groom said, “I do not know you.”  In ending Jesus said, “Stay awake, for you do not know the day nor the hour.”  To be awake spiritually is to have the life of holiness that comes from Spirit to be our life day in and day out.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.   In the Gospel we are called upon to stay awake and be ready at any hour for the call to judgment, in other words, to be holy always.  However, in the Epistle reading, the reference to “those who have fallen asleep” is to those who died before the Lord has come in the Second Coming, the end of the world, to call his own to heaven.  The belief among many Christians not long after the Ascension was that Christ was to come soon and call his holy ones to heaven but that one needed to be alive to be called.  Paul reassures the Thessalonians and us that at the Second Coming “the dead in Christ will rise first” and then those “who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”  November is the month for us to bring strongly to mind the universal ‘end time’, the Second Coming of Christ and the ‘end time’ for each individual, i.e., our death.  The Lord is the loving God the Father who gives us the Holy Spirit who, with our loving cooperation, sanctifies us to prepare us to be called to heaven.   Jesus assures us when he said to Nicodemus in Mt. 3:16-18: “For God so loved the world the he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

 

PS: The Holy Spirit gives us the spiritual knowledge/guidance of where we are going, what we are to do, the will to do it, and the strength to follow through and maintain the course.

All Saints – November 1, 2020

AllSts20.   Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14.  This book is a form of apocalyptic literature which conveys its messages through symbolic and not literal language and forms.  The number ‘one hundred and forty-four thousand’ or twelve times twelve times one thousand is symbolic.  It is a way of saying that that is the group of people that God thinks should be in heaven: no more, no less.  It is not saying that that is the exact numerical amount that is in heaven.  The amount of souls who are in heaven meet God’s expectation of the amount or perfect number in God’s eyes who would choose to faithfully serve God’s Will.  They are the saints who adore God now and forever.  The last lines of this reading refer to those who endured persecution and remained faithful.

Matthew 5:1-13.  In his chapter 5 Matthew selects Jesus’ words and statements that show that his new people are distinct from the Old Testament People of God.  They are expected to develop further and beyond from the Old Testament People of God.  In his beatitudes Jesus outlines that interior development or maturation process that goes far beyond the Old Testament Torah or Law that are expressed in the Ten Commandments.  The beatitudes internalize what the Torah only did externally.  The beatitudes call for a new holy person to be made; whereas before, the Law only required external things to be done without necessarily changing the inner person to develop into a holy person.

1 John 3:1-3.  “Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.”  By our baptism we have become children of God our Father. We have the right to be saints in heaven if daily we join ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit who enables us to grow in holiness.  As the suffering and crucifixion were not easy for Jesus, our day by day development in holiness is not and will not be easy for us.  We must live as strangers in a world that treats us as rejected foreigners.  In Matthew 10:34b Jesus said, “I have come not to bring peace but the sword.” In John 15:19 b, c, Jesus said: “But because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.”  Holiness and worldliness are directly opposed to one another.  If the world sees us for who we truly are, it will treat us as an absurdity.  As we grow daily to be more and more into the children of God, our goal is to be “like him” so that one can see that we are truly his children in his image and likeness.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Oct. 25, 2020

30A20.   Exodus 22:20-26.   There are many laws in the Old Testament but the underlying absolute rule is to act and think as God acts and thinks.    Jesus in Matthew 16:23c rebukes Peter as he says, “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  Today’s reading says one must return the neighbor’s cloak that was given as a pledge “before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body.  What else has he to sleep in?  If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”  The word compassionate literally means that God feels what the needy neighbor feels.  God unites himself to the one who is needy and who pleads to God for help.  In Jesus’ parable in Matthew 26: 25, the king says to those who did not help the needy, “what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”  As God said above, “for I am compassionate, which is to say, God feels what the needy neighbor feels.

Matthew 22:34-40.    Jesus says, “This is the greatest and the first commandment.”  “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This means that everything, without exception, belongs to God.  The second says one is to love his neighbor, which one’s fellow countryman, as one loves one self.  In John 13:34 Jesus changes that second commandment saying, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so also you should love one another.”  With this change we are not only to love our neighbor but also everyone including our enemies.  In Matthew 5:43-45 Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he  makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”  In John 5:48 Jesus sums up by saying, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly father is perfect” (holy).  If we fully respect and treat God as our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our minds, then for us he is the measure of everything.  His Will that is infinitely more expansive than the Ten Commandments is life for us.  In place of the Torah or Law of the Old Testament, the divine Person of God and his Will is now our law and measure of who we should be and how we should live.

1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10.  Paul makes a great point of how preaching the gospel is accomplished by one’s manner of life when he writes: “you know what sort of people we were;” “You became imitators of us and of the Lord;” “You became a model for all the believers.”  We preach Jesus by what and how we live and by the living examples of faith we have become.  The Thessalonians “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” Paul says of the Thessalonians, “In every place your faith in gone has gone forth.”  They lived the love of God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their mind and by their love of one another.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2017

30A.   Exodus 22:20-26.  Yahweh was mindful of the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt.  He was compassionate for them and so released them from their captivity.  In line with this Sunday’s first reading, Leviticus 19:32-34 also says, “When an alien resides with you in your land, do not molest him.  You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the Lord, am your God.”  God treats with compassion all peoples and wants us to do the same.  God finds it reprehensible to take advantage of others, when we have the opportunity, by doing them harm.

Matthew 22:34-40.  In Matthew 22:37 Jesus replies to his questioner, “You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”  On reading this, I have always asked myself, if you truly love God with absolutely everything you have, you would nothing left with which to love yourself or your neighbor.  In turn I have thought that, if you truly love God, then you must love his Will for you.  His Will for us is that we love everyone he loves.   1 Jn. 4:20-21 says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”  Also 1 Jn. 3:15-18 reads, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him.  The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?  Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”

1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10.  As it said in the quote just before, as the Lord laid down his life for us, so we ought to lay down our lives for others.  This reading calls us to be imitators of Jesus and so to be a model for all believers, as in the lives of the Thessalonian Christians something of Jesus himself was seen.  Paul and Jesus are calling upon us to love as we have been loved so that in every place our faith in God goes forth like seeds to sow faith in others.  As with those to whom Paul wrote this letter, we are to turn away from the allurements of this world “to serve the living and true God and to await his Son,” “Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.”  Jesus says in Jn. 13:34-35, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples, you have love for one another.”

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Oct. 18, 2020

29A20.    Isaiah: 1, 4-6.    In Isaiah 10:6 God sends Assyria to punish unfaithful Israel.    Much later in this first reading God also used Cyrus to work his divine Will by moving him to liberate the captive Hebrews.  Cyrus entered Babylon without a fight because, more than likely, he had built up allies within the city who opened the gates to him.  Cyrus seems to have been a master of diplomacy by gaining victories without going to war.  Cyrus may have been looking forward to building a nation friendly to him by releasing the Hebrew captives and helping them financially to rebuild Israel.  God declares his divinity: “I am the Lord, there is no other.”  God declares to Cyrus and to all the world, “It is I who arm you, though you know me not, so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun, people may know that there is none besides me.”  God is the root source of all that is truly good.  It does not matter that the agent of the good believes in God or not.

Matthew 22:15-21.  The Pharisees hated the Roman occupation of Israel whereas the Herodians embraced and profited from it.  Both hated Jesus because the people went to him and not them.  The old phrase is the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  So they joined forces against Jesus.  They thought they had the perfect trap.  If Jesus chose to pay the taxes, he was the enemy of the Jewish people who hated Roman occupation.  If Jesus chose to refuse to pay taxes to the emperor, he would be executed by the Roman troops. They were sure they had him. His answered stunned them.  “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”  In John 19:10a-11, Pilate said to Jesus, “Do you not know that I have the power to crucify you?” Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above.”  God, the source of all power, empowers us to make choices as he did to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Although empowered by God, he allows us to choose good or evil; despite the fact that the power to make that choice came to us from God.  What belonged to Caesar was a gift to him from God.  In the first reading it was God who empowered Cyrus, though Cyrus had no idea who the God of Israel was.  Let us adore our God and beg him to help us use the resources he has given us to accomplish his Will.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b.  Paul writes: “For our gospel did not come to you by word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.”  The Holy Spirit gave the Thessalonians strength to accept Jesus and he gave Paul and his helpers the power to preach the good news of Jesus Christ our Savior.  All that is good is gift from God.

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2017

29A.   Isaiah 45:1, 4-6.  The Lord makes King Cyrus, his anointed, savior or messiah of the Jewish people who freed them from their captivity and aided in their reestablishment as the Jewish nation.  Cyrus was a non-Jew.  “I called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not.”   It is God in his greatness who empowered Cyrus and any others who do truly good things in all of the events of humanity, whether they know God or not.  Our reading quotes God as saying, “I am the Lord, there is other.” It is by the power of God that goodness comes to this earth, though he may choose many instruments or various people to work his Will.

Matthew 22:15-21.  These last three Sundays in the readings from Matthew, Jesus makes it clear to the chief priests and the elders that they will no part in the kingdom of God because they have refused to have Jesus as the anointed, savior or messiah of the Jewish nation.  The Jewish leaders in turn plot to entrap Jesus by luring him into saying something that will put him at odds with either the Jewish people or the Roman authorities.  “Knowing their malice, Jesus said, ‘Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?  Show me the coin that pays the census tax.’ Then they handed him the Roman coin.  He said to them, ‘Whose image is this and whose inscription?’  They replied, ‘Caesar’s.’  At that he said to them, ‘Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”  I am always in awe at the ingeniousness of this response.  The glory of God shines through in his answer.  I am sure that they were stunned.  Jesus was not making any attempt to reason with them, since they were beyond any willingness of mind to be reasoned with but was simply fending off their attack.  The truth is that all authority comes from God and God alone.  Jesus says later to Pilate in John 19:11a, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above.”  As the first reading indicated, Cyrus was anointed king by God’s power and so it was with Caesar and anyone who is ever given authority in this world.  God himself claimed that authority in the first reading by saying, “I am the Lord, there is no other.”

1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b. Writing to the church in Thessalonica, Paul gives thanks to God knowing “how you were chosen.  For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.”  The power is the power of the Holy Spirit’s grace conferred on the Thessalonians who with much conviction accept his spiritual life within them.  As God moved King Cyrus and also spoke through Jesus against the errant Jewish authorities in Jerusalem, God now moves the Thessalonians.  “I am the Lord, there is no other.”  Paul calls to mind the Thessalonians’ “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord.”  These are the three theological virtues, like three pie slices forming a complete circle that is the wholeness of a full Christian life, putting our faith in his love for us gives us the hope for the eternal happiness that helps us to endure through the trials of this world.

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Oct. 11, 2020

28A20.   Isaiah 25:6-10a.   This reading begins and ends with the words “on this mountain,” referring physically to Mount Zion and in Jerusalem (Isaiah 24:23c).   From a spiritual point of view, I understand this phrase to mean that this mountain was the place of soul where God came down to his people and his people lifted themselves or reached up to God.  This section of Isaiah is referred to as the ‘Apocalypse of Isaiah’ to provide a hope or dream of what God would someday do for his people who were still captives living in a foreign land.  “On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death itself.”  I understand Isaiah to mean that God will destroy the worldliness or lack of God-centeredness that leads to so much misery and devastation on this earth that can only end in death.  He would wipe away every tear and especially the reproach or slavery of his people.  Because “the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain,” there will be the kind of rejoicing among all peoples that one experiences at a spectacular, wondrous banquet.  He is the God who spreads the table before us; our cup overflows (Psalm 23).

Matthew 22:1-14.   Again Jesus delivers a parable to the chief priests and the elders.  He is accusing them of being the ones who reject God’s invitation to come to the feast for his son Jesus.  They will be the ones who will be destroyed because they will murder God’s son and their city will be destroyed.  All other peoples would be invited to the heavenly banquet.  The symbolism of the man who attended the wedding feast without a wedding garment is of someone who was not there to embrace the joy of the king but only to partake of the food and drink.  To accept God’s invitation means that we choose to belong to God and to nothing else.  The feast that all were invited to was to have Christ as their life.  Those who do not have Christ as their life will be cast “into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20.  The Church in Philippi offers assistance to Paul.  Paul writes that he is able to do well whether he has little or a lot, as he says, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.”  Paul teaches them to do the same, when he says, “My God will supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”   In these three readings we are told to put our faith in our all-provident God who rejoices in being a father who gives his children good things, because he loves us so much.

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2017

28A.   Isaiah 25:6-10a.  This is from the section of Isaiah called the Apocalypse of Isaiah, where Isaiah looks to the victory of Yahweh over the forces of evil to which God’s people had succumb, leading to their captivity; and, in turn, for those who remain loyal to the Lord.  The theme of this Sunday’s readings is that God provides for those who choose God.  ‘On this mountain’, probably meaning God’s seat among his people, Jerusalem, Yahweh provides a victorious feast for his people who have stayed with him through their reproach or shame of captivity, to which they have been delivered because of their sin.  In our New Testament world, this food and wine has been seen as a reference to the bread and wine of the Eucharist.  The veil, shroud or pall is the death of sin or rejection of obedience to God that God wipes away or swallows up by his grace, the force of his salvation from our sins.  “Let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!  For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain,” Jerusalem, from which he reaches out to provide salvation to all who accept him as their God and King.

Matthew 22:1-14.  The parable of the invitation to the wedding feast of the king’s son would most readily interpreted as the invitation to heaven; however, I personally prefer to think of it as the invitation to dine each day here on this earth as well as in heaven with the king’s Son, Jesus.  Those who refuse primarily would be the people and leaders of the Chosen people; but secondarily are all those of all times who refused the invitation of the grace of God that leads to the feast.  Rejection of the invitation to enjoy God’s grace leads to the fires of hell.  I interpret the lack of the wedding garment to mean to superficially enter into church life without participating fully in heart and mind.  To feast daily with the Lord is to enjoy his life and person as an essential part of our life and to live in submission of his dominion as king over us.

Philippians 4:12-14.  Paul says he knows “of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in him who strengthens me.”  God provides through thick and thin if we have him as our life.  Paul thanks the Philippians who help him in his difficulties.  He calls upon the Philippians to depend upon God as he has done. “My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 23.  “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”  “You spread the table before me.”  “My cup overflows.”  The theme of the generosity of the Lord, his endless providence, continues in this psalm.  He makes our life, here and hereafter, an endless feast with the goodness of having him as the foundation of our daily life.  But also he shepherds us.  “He guides me in right paths”  “I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.”  “Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life.”  That does not mean that life is easy and painless but that, through it all, he is with me.  I live daily in his strength.  I am always secure and joyful.