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29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 19, 2014

EVERYTHING BELONGS

So the question is: how do we know what belongs to God and what belongs to Ceaser? Perhaps we might be tempted to say that everything belongs to God, but that does not seem to be what Jesus is implying.

The question of belonging is also present in our first and second readings. Cyrus, whom Isaiah describes as anointed in our first reading, was the King of Persia. Though he was not an Israelite, he was an “agent of the Lord” and permitted Israel to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. He was a pagan, but also anointed. He did not know God, but was called by God.

And so we ask ourselves, in what category did Cyrus belong?

The reality is that everything belongs. We live according to both Caesar and God for we must live in a world governed by laws of human making and those of God, but we keep trying to choose one or put them in competition with each other.

CLICK HERE for the readings for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Isaiah 45:1,4-6; Psalm 96; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21).

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28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 12, 2014

THE BENEFITS OF BELIEF

Flannery O’Connor once wrote that, “In the land of the deaf, you have to shout.”

This is precisely what Jesus is doing through the rather brutal Gospel we hear today. It is an exaggerated story that is not to be taken literally; rather it is an extreme tale meant to shake us into awareness.

This wedding banquet offered by the king is a simile to the divine invitation of God into the joy of the kingdom.  And so just as we are challenged to wonder why the guests refused to attend the king’s banquet so we should wonder why so many, often very good people, refuse to participate in our churches and thus, receive the grace of God?

That is to ask: are there consequences for unbelief or a lack of practice? According to the Gospel – yes. Again, in this parable death is an exaggeration, but it does convey that, according to Jesus, the consequences for unbelief and lack of practice are so very serious.

CLICK HERE for the readings for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Isaiah 25:6-10; Psalm 23; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14).

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27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 5, 2014

HUMAN ECOLOGY

You have heard me say many times before that we are gifted beyond our accounting. Too many times we focus on what we don’t have and/or our sinfulness, but how many times do we take stock of the gifts we have received?

For example, I am sure that if I were to ask you to confess your sins, you could easily rattle off a list, but what about your gifts? Your aptitudes, talents, resources, etc? Could you rattle those off just as easily? If you want a good assignment, it would be to go home and make a list of 20 gifts. Perhaps it is a good task for every Sunday – too look back on the week and ask, as a family, what are the blessings to be accounted and thankful for this week.

Our readings today call us to be mindful of the gifts we have received. We are the vineyard, Isaiah tells us, but it is not ours to possess, rather it is ours to cultivate. It is on loan to us, and our responsibility to care for it is very serious indeed.

CLICK HERE for the readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43).

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26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 28, 2014

WALKING THE WALK

When I first entered the novitiate as a Basilian, we were told to wear a sort of habit. It was a white shirt with a distinctive cross. It was meant to identify us as priests in training. What I appreciated about it was that it was not overly religious, but when we were together, it clearly meant something.

Now that I am ordained, I am most often in black. It identifies me as a priest, which can be a scary thing because it demands that I live up to the role.

But it also quite helpful, because it reminds me that my actions matter more than my words. I think the same is true for those who wear wedding rings or other identifiable garments or jewelry.

And I think God would agree. In our Gospel today, Jesus is clear: we will be judged, not on what we proclaim, but how we act. If we say we are Christian, then we have to walk the walk, but first we need to know what that means.

CLICK HERE for the readings for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ezekiel 18:25-28; Psalm 25; Philippians 2:1-5; Matthew 21:28-32).

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25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 21, 2014

GENEROSITY AS THE ONLY RESPONSE

Last week, we exalted the cross and if you recall, I spoke that it is for us a great truth-teller. It reminds us of who we are – sinful and often egotistical. We are not as special as we would like to think ourselves to be, but we are so very important and so very loved.

In today’s readings, we are reminded of who God is and how very different God’s ways are from our ways. They demand that we take a hard look at our sense of justice and our sense of worth. For the most part, they are a bit of a slap in the face to the ethics of a western civilization that prides itself on earning our keep.

But we must also understand that this Gospel is not about economics or wages. Catholic Social Thought is very clear about the necessity of just and fair wages. Rather, this a parable about the spiritual life.

CLICK HERE for the readings for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Isaiah 55:6-9; Psalm 145; Philippians 1:20-24, 27; Matthew 20:1-16).

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Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

September 13, 2014

A TRUTH-TELLER

This past week, I had a chance to see King Lear in Stratford. I couldn’t help but think that everyone should have their own fool – someone to tell you what you really need to hear, but in a manner that does not threaten or belittle.

In Scene One, Act Four, Lear is having a conversation with Goneril and his Fool. At this point, his world has been turned upside down. He has lost his power, his cast out the one daughter that loved him; and the two he trusted betrayed him.

He asks, “Does anyone here know me? Why, this is not me? Who is it that can tell me who I am?”

CLICK HERE for the readings for the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross (Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 78; Philippians 2:6-11; John 3:13-17).

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23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 7, 2014

LOVE IN DIVERSITY Today’s readings are extremely practical, for they offer instruction about how we are to resolve our conflicts with one another. The Gospel tells us if you are in conflict with a person, or feel that person has caused you harm, then you must first confront that person.

Now that isn’t what we like to do is it? What do we like to do? (go tell someone else – do you know what she did?) Or if we are at work, we go to the person above the person who caused us harm so that they can be corrected. Of course we do, because we don’t like conflict.

Now to be clear, the Gospel says that this approach of talking to others is okay, but ONLY AFTER you have tried to confront the person directly. This, by the way, is a basic tenant of Catholic Social Doctrine as well: Subsidiarity is a principle that says all problems should be dealt with at the most immediate or local level.

CLICK HERE for the readings for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ezekiel 33:7-9; Psalm 95; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20).

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