25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“Going out about five o’clock,
the landowner found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’”

Often when I’m reading a familiar passage of scripture, some part of it will jump out at me which has never really struck me before. This week, the part shown above of the parable of the workers in the vineyard really got me. It got me because I think it’s perhaps the saddest part of the parable.

These who have been standing around idle all day may well be those who even at the eleventh hour have not yet had the Gospel preached to them. The parable tells us that our Lord pursues his children up until the very last minute, because He wills that all should be saved, and that all should be gathered in to the kingdom of heaven.

Indeed that kingdom of heaven is symbolized in this parable by the persistent landowner, who returns to find laborers at every moment of the day, who gives generously to all, and brings all to the same reward. We can take heart as the psalmist tells us, because that’s just how our God is:

Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”

Harmoniae Euangelicae libri quator, 1540. Pitts Theological Library Digital Image Archive.

What an interesting reading to have had on September 11th. I think it’s so hard for us to even forgive the little things that happen in our personal lives. So then to be expected to forgive something as greivous as terrorist attacks on our country is really grasping for the impossible, it would seem.

The Church didn’t pull any dirty tricks putting this reading out there for Sunday. That’s what’s in the Lectionary for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, cycle A. It just so happens that corresponded to September 11th this year. But still in all, I don’t believe in coincidence; I believe in the work of the Holy Spirit who is clearly speaking, yelling to us in these readings!

Forgiveness was the major theme of Jesus’ ministry and mission, and so it has to be ours too. We must forgive each other from our hearts for the small and petty, and even for the ghastly and unconscionable. Have I done this yet? I’d have to say no. But the solution isn’t to abandon the pursuit of it as pie-in-the-sky. The solution is to take up the cross and forgive.

For truly “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion,” as the psalmist says. And we are expected to do likewise, lest we suffer the fate of the unforgiving servant in the Gospel reading. We, like him, are expected to forgive our brothers and sisters from our hearts.

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
for your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Yesterday I was out mowing the lawn. When I came back inside, I drank several glasses of cold, refreshing water to slake my thirst. So the image of “for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts” is one that is clear to me. And the whole idea of being “parched, lifeless and without water” is terrifying. Only in God can we find water for our thirst and only God can fill up the void that is within us. All we have to do is be away from prayer for a short time and we can find that our lives are adrift. The only way to survive is for our souls to “cling fast to” God whose right hand upholds us.

Perhaps the second reading makes it even more clear. We can be tossed about by all the philosophies and teachings of a world adrift in its search for meaning. But the only way to find rock solid truth and surety in our time is not to be conformed to this age, but to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

Who do people say that the Son of Man is?

This is probably every bit as pertinent a question in our time as it was when Jesus walked the earth. Who do people say that the Son of Man is?

For many, the question seems surprising. Of course he is Christ, the Son of the Living God. Peter had it right. But does our behavior match what we would really say about that? Who is the Son of Man to us? What difference does it make that he is our God? It can often seem like the Son of Man is irrelevant in our world, and if we look deeply, sometimes in our lives too.

Because if we really knew that he is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, then maybe our lives would be more Gospel-centered. Maybe our words would be more healing and our actions more loving. Maybe we would take more time with our families than at our jobs. Maybe we would relentlessly pursue relationships with our God rather than relentlessly pursue more posessions that rob the world of resources meant for all. Maybe we would look past our own wants and see the needs of the poor and the oppressed. Maybe we would preserve the resources of the world that all might have enough.

Maybe if we really knew that Jesus is the Son of the Living God we would bind all those really important things and loose all the things that take us out of relationship with God. We really must live the truth that Peter proclaimed. It is only in doing that that we can one day hear Jesus say to us, “Blessed are you!”

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy!
Our life, our sweetness, and our hope!
To thee do we cry, poor banished
children of Eve, to thee do we send
up our sighs, mourning and weeping
in this valley, of tears.
Turn, then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us; and
after this our exile show unto us the
blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus;
O clement, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God

That we may be made worthy of the
promises of Christ.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed One.”
Rev. 10:11ab

What I have come to love about the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary is what it means for us. The Assumption marks the feast of Mary’s Assumption, body and soul, into heaven. The Church believes that Mary never saw death, because of her virginity and her participation in God’s plan of salvation through the conception, birth, death and resurrection of her son, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Mary was a young girl with all the concerns of a young girl in that time and place. She was as yet unmarried, yet faithfully embraced God’s call, strange and unfathomable though it must have been to her. For me, her faith is incomprehensible. If I could have a tenth of it, my own faith would be increased immeasurably.

This humble girl, with great faith, was raised on this day to the heights of heaven that we can yet hope for. What the Assumption means for us is that as Mary has gone to exaltation before us, so we can hope for exaltation on that Great Day.

Because there are those among us too who have unplanned pregnancies. There are those among us whose children go in directions that put them in danger. There are those among us who have to watch a child die. But because Mary suffered these sorrows too, and yet was exalted, we can hope for the day when that which she was given and which we have been promised will surely be ours.

We are called to simply live our faith, not knowing where it will take us always, but always having faith that God will reward our efforts and raise us up from our fallenness.

We too can hope to be assumed into the great heavenly vision and rejoice when we hear that great voice say:

“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed One.”

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”

The faith of the Canaanite woman is remarkable, and Jesus says as much. This is a confusing passage from our viewpoint: is Jesus learning something about his ministry, or is this incident hyperbolic — is Jesus using this incident for the greater honor and glory of God?

Whatever its intent, the story is there for us, and whatever it meant for Jesus, or however He used it, our task is simply to put it in practice in our own spiritual lives. How persistent are we in prayer? How often do we come to Jesus with great faith asking for our salvation?