SR-2017-10-22

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – October 22, 2017


ORDINARY TIME:
Liturgical Color – Green (Stands for Growth, hope, life.)
Purpose –
To recall the life of Christ, reminded that God is always there to help us live as Christians.

(Cycle A) – Matthew’s Gospel is used primarily during the Sunday Mass, Liturgy of the Word’s Gospel Reading.


WHY BIBLE STUDY?
The desired end result of true study of the Bible is to hear God’s voice. That is, to find Him in His word and understand His word so that it may generate in us both gratitude and obedience. Add to this that the Christian faith is not something to be enjoyed alone, but to be shared.

“The kingdom of God (i.e. the sphere over which God rules and in which all believers live and operate) … includes … justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)


29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: God is In Charge.

Reading 1 and the Gospel reading tell us that God is the King of the universe and that our first allegiance belongs to Him. In Reading 2, Paul sees the Holy Spirit is active and in charge within the community as a result of his preaching and their acceptance of The Word of God.


  • Reading 1 – Isaiah 45:1,4-6      The Lord chooses Cyrus to subdue the nations for the sake of Israel.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 96:1,3-10      Sing praise to the Lord.
  • Reading 2 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b      Paul greets the Thessalonians, recalling the Gospel they received.
  • Gospel Matthew 22:15-21     The Pharisees send their disciples to test Jesus with a question about taxes.

(This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal (Themes), Loyola Press, CatholicCulture.org,  Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, USCCB, Understanding the Scriptures by Scott Hahn,  St Thomas Aquinas’ Works, RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Charles Borromeo Bible Studies, LUMINA Bible Study, The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.)


NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.



Reading 1     Isaiah 45:1,4-6                          (One God)

Context –  The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom  for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.

Today’s Reading – Cyrus was the pagan king of Persia who led the overthrow of the occupation by the Babylonians of Syria and Palestine (which includes Israel and Judah) in 539 B.C. Isaiah prophesied this overthrow 162 years earlier, in today’s reading, that Cyrus would be used (anointed) by God to deliver the Israelites from their captivity by Babylon at the end of the Exile. It is said that Cyrus was so impressed at seeing this prophesy of his name in the Jewish Holy Scriptures that he released the people in 538 B.C. to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.


Thus says the LORD to His anointed (dedicated to the service of God; often implies one chosen for some great work), Cyrus (Cyrus is the only Old Testament non-Israelite to be anointed.), whose right hand I grasp, subduing nations before him, and making kings run in his service, opening doors before him and leaving the gates unbarred: For the sake of Jacob, My servant, of Israel, My chosen one, I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew Me not. I am the LORD and there is no other, there is no God besides Me. 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. I am the LORD, there is no other.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          God is directing Cyrus’ steps. He is making sure that the world history converges on His designs for a tiny captured group of people, Israel – See THEME. He hasn’t violated Cyrus’ free will, but He has guided Cyrus’ actions. 



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 96:1,3-5, 7-10                       (The Lord is King)

Today’s Psalm – This psalm celebrates God as the King of Israel. As stated above in Reading 1, “I am the LORD, there is no other”.


R. – Give the Lord glory and honor.
Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all you lands. Tell His glory among the nations; among all peoples, His wondrous deeds.
R. – Give the Lord glory and honor. For great is the LORD and highly to be praised; awesome is He, beyond all gods. For all the gods of the nations are things of naught, but the LORD made the heavens.
R. – Give the Lord glory and honor. Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and praise; give to the LORD the glory due His name! Bring gifts, and enter His courts.
R. – Give the Lord glory and honor. Worship the LORD, in holy attire; tremble before Him, all the earth; say among the nations: The LORD is King, He governs the peoples with equity.
R. – Give the Lord glory and honor.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



 Reading 2.     1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b                         (Preaching the Gospel)      

Context – The church at Thessalonica was a very young church. Paul’s two letters focus upon confirming young converts in the elementary truth of the gospel, conditioning them to go on unto holy living, and comforting them regarding the return of Christ.

Today’s Reading – The tone of this reading is warm, tender and positive.  Paul obviously has great affection for this particular Christian community.


Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ (This is the earliest mention in Christian writing of the three theological virtues – faith, hope, and charity (love).), before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, 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. (St. Paul emphasizes that the power of the gospel lies not in the force of his own rhetoric but in the power of the Holy Spirit of God.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Gospel     Matthew 22:15-21                          (Lawful Taxes)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – This reading takes place when Jesus is in Jerusalem for His passion, death, and resurrection. “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” suggests that one can indeed be loyal both to a religious tradition and to a good secular power (the USA for example – based upon Judeo Christian principles and precepts). It may be difficult at times, especially when their claims conflict, but it is possible.

Patricia Sanchez (theologian and writer for National Catholic Reporter) writes: “Everywhere we go we belong to God for we bear His imprint. We belong to God, not just in church but in our homes, our work places and in the voting booth and we must bring God’s values to all of these places.”


The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to Him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a Truthful Man and that You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And You are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for You do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is Your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” (Jesus recognizes that both groups are trying to get Him to endorse a position which will offend one of them. The Pharisees hated the Roman taxes but the Herodians supported the Roman rule.)  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.”


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Catechism 2242 – The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  “We must obey God rather than men”:   When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.



 

SR-2017-10-15

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – October 15, 2017


“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life;” (John 5:24)


28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: The Banquet Is Ready.

When we read about God providing us with Banquets and Gifts, we should know that we are not only to be thankful, grateful, and happy to receive them but God wants us to partake of them, enjoy them, open them up, and share them with others so that His glory is known, shown, acclaimed and celebrated. We won’t draw many people to God by just proclaiming His laws and judgment, we must show how He has provided us with His wonderful banquets and gifts and how they have benefited us. His best Banquet is the Kingdom of Heaven where He provides His best Gift of “eternal life”.

In Reading 1 and the Gospel reading, Isaiah and Jesus use the image of a sumptuous banquet to describe the fullness of life that God offers us and the abundant mercy that God wishes to offer not only to Israel but to all people.  In Reading 2, Paul shares how he has come, through grace, to depend on God in good times and in bad.


  • Reading 1 – Isaiah 25:6-10a      The Lord will provide richly for His people.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 23:1-6      The Lord is our Shepherd.
  • Reading 2 Philippians 4:12-14,19-20      Paul tells the Philippians that God provides whatever he
  • Gospel Matthew 22:1-14     Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding feast.


Reading 1     Isaiah 25:6-10a                        (God as Savior)

Context –  The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom  for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.

Today’s Reading – Images of a banquet are used to sum up the blessings that God’s people will experience on the last day. Notice that this heavenly banquet is prepared not only for the people of Israel, but for all people who hear and answer God’s call. At this feast, the “veil” or all that separates us from God will be lifted and the spider’s “web” that imprisons us in ignorance and isolation will be brushed aside. Tears, guilt and shame will be replaced with joy.

The reading is intended to give hope to a people who may have felt abandoned by God because of some bad things that have recently happened to them. Isaiah also speaks of a time of restoration in these verses. The day will come when God will return and renew the broken covenant. This will take place symbolically on a mountain just as the original covenant was made with Moses on a mountain.


On this mountain (a figure of the Church, and of Heaven) the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast (banquet – see Theme) of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines (The banquet signifies the spiritual blessings that God brings to humankind through His kingdom.). On this mountain He will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; He will destroy death forever (A promise of everlasting life in Heaven.). The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from every face; the reproach of His people He will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken. On that day it will be said: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that He has saved us!” For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. 



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 23:1-6                       (Dwelling with the Lord)

Today’s Psalm –  God’s shepherding care for His people is celebrated in both pastoral and banquet imagery by this 23rd Psalm. It is a Psalm that expresses confidence in God’s protection. You spread the table before me” as is mentioned below, is in line with the Theme of God’s Banquet.


R. – I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant
(green, abundant and grassy) pastures He gives me repose; beside restful waters He leads me (Pastures and restful waters are God’s gifts to us.); He refreshes my soul.
R. – I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
He guides me in right paths for His name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for You are at my side with Your rod
(for protection) and Your staff (for guiding – Abbot Richard Antonucci’s Staff is a symbol of leading his faithful flock along the path of salvation, disciplining and protecting them as needed.) that give me courage.
R. – I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes
(God provides for us in a world beset with distractions, evil, and tragedy); You anoint my head with oil (The shepherd applies oil to the head of the sheep to repel flies, insects, and snakes. – God protects us.); my cup overflows (An overflowing cup is a sign to a visitor that his hosts wants him to stay as opposed to no refill which signifies – time to go!! –  God wants us to stay with Him forever.).
R. – I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come
(Trust in the Lord, His way will get you to Heaven and the trials of the trip will be lost in the joys at His Banquet – the Kingdom of Heaven.)
R. – I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The commentary, in part in the above, was taken from the book entitled “Safe in the Shepherd’s Arms” by Max Lucado.



Reading 2.     Philippians 4:12-14,19-20                     (Sharing the Hardships)    

Context – St. Paul founded the church in Philippi (in northern Greece) in 50 AD and this letter was written about ten years later. Philippians is a letter of thanks and encouragement to a congregation of dear friends of Paul. They supported the imprisoned apostle with their prayers and financial assistance. Much of this letter challenges the Philippians to grow in spiritual maturity and imitating both their Savior and their founding apostle. He holds up Jesus Christ as the model of humility and selfless love  and himself as a model of patient endurance.

Today’s Reading – While in prison, some of the Philippians send Paul gifts to help him endure the hardships of prison life. While grateful for the gifts, Paul shares that through his missionary journeys he has learned to be content with both famine and feast. Eating well or going hungry cannot compare with the strength Paul experiences in surrendering his life to Christ. He learns what Mary, the sister of Martha, had also come to know: “that only one thing is necessary,” namely, belonging to and being possessed by Christ. With Christ, Paul can say: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me” . Paul concludes by exhorting his readers to place their trust in the “magnificent riches of God.”


Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in Him who strengthens me (Christ gives to His apostle the power to endure all things for the sake of the spread of the gospel.). Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress. My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (St. Paul does not ask God to make them rich or affluent. He asks only that God may ‘supply their every need’ – so they will not be in want but will have what they need.” – Saint John Chrysostom) To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           God is the provider of His people’s needs. May we ever be mindful of this truth and be grateful to Him! – The Lord is my Shepherd! 



Gospel     Matthew 22:1-14                            (The Wedding Banquet)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – Jesus is in Jerusalem for His passion. He has made His triumphal entry and has upset the religious leaders. He is speaking to them in parables about His mission and by whose authority He has been able to do what He has done and is to do. The parable we hear today summarizes the long history of God’s dealings with humankind – a series of invitations to a life guided by the Holy Spirit and portrays humankind’s  negative response to these invitations to share in the messianic blessings.

Like Reading 1, above, the Kingdom of God is imaged as a banquet to which all are invited to attend. The main focus of the parable is the response or lack of response of the invited guests. In this parable, Jesus continues to call the Pharisees and the religious leaders to conversion. Two invitations have been extended but the invitees refuse to come. Some even abuse and kill the servants delivering the invitations (a reference to the fate of some of the Old Testament prophets and the early Christian missionaries).

By the time Matthew writes his Gospel (85AD), Jesus has died, Jerusalem has been sacked and burned by the Romans (70AD), and the Gentiles have been invited into the Kingdom. It would be wrong to assume that the King in the story stands for a God—which would leave us with a pretty nasty image of a punishing God, rather than of a God who saves. As stated above, the main point of the parable is not about what God is like, but about the negative response of the religious leaders and all invited to Jesus’ call to enter the Kingdom that He is inaugurating.


Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, “The Kingdom of Heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. (The messianic kingdom (Kingdom of Heaven) was referred to in the Old Testament in terms of a wedding feast (a Banquet) to which the Chosen People were invited (recall Reading 1 for today). The wedding feast was the high point of the wedding festivities and to be invited to it was a distinct honor. Failure to accept the invitation constituted a grave breach of courtesy – to the point it could even be considered a hostile act.)  He dispatched his servants (the prophets) to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. (In effect, they denied the urgency, they become careless with the things of God. They are preoccupied with material things. Sound familiar?)  The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. (This can only be seen as a prophecy of the destruction to come to Jerusalem in A.D. 70.) Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited (the Jews) were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find (the Gentiles).’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. (A clean white garment (washed in the blood of the lamb) was the proper attire, this man has not repented. His white baptismal garment is dirty. Even though he may belong to the Church, if he doesn’t repent and have the proper dispositions, he will be condemned on the day when God judges all humankind. He may have made the altar call and “accepted Jesus as his Lord and savior,” but he has failed to live out that call. This is an example which shows that “once saved, always saved” doesn’t work.) The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.” (These words don’t conflict with God’s desire that all should be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). In His love for humankind, Christ patiently searches even the byroads seeking the conversion of every single soul, going so far as to die on the cross so that the entrance to the Heavenly Banquet is opened. However, God in His infinite wisdom and love respects humankind’s freedom: humankind is free (our Free Will) to reject God’s grace.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Catechism 546 – Jesus’ invitation to enter His kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of His teaching. Through His parables He invites people to the feast of the Kingdom, but He also asks for a radical choice: to gain the Kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough, deeds are required. The parables are like mirrors for humankind: will we be hard soil or good earth for the word? What use have we made of the talents we has received? Jesus and the presence of the Kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the Kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven”. For those who stay “outside”, everything remains enigmatic (i.e. being beyond one’s powers to know, understand, or explain). 



 

SR-2017-10-8

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – October 8, 2017


“For I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: …. For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous by faith will live.” (Romans 1:16-17)


27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Righteousness.

Righteousness is defined as the living, dynamic relationship between us and God wherein we are spiritually and morally acceptable to God. It is conformity to God’s will in word, thought, and action; living a consistently conscientious (ethical, honest, honorable, just, moral, principled, scrupulous) life. It’s” using our Free Will to do what we ought rather than always what we want” (St. Pope John Paul II).

Reading 1 and the Gospel reading present an image of Israel as a vineyard where God the Divine Planter and Cultivator has sown His seed. But Israel has failed miserably to produce a good harvest. In Reading 2, Paul exhorts the Philippians to avoid anxiety, to be prayerful, and to constantly seek to do what is honorable, good, and true.


  • Reading 1 – Isaiah 5:1-7      The Lord compares the house of Israel to a vineyard.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 80:9,12-16,19-20      The Lord protects His vineyard, the house of Israel.
  • Reading 2 Philippians 4:6-9      Paul encourages the Philippians to stay faithful to the teaching they received from him.
  • Gospel Matthew 21:33-43     Jesus tells the parable about the wicked tenants.

 


NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.



Reading 1     Isaiah 5:1-7                  (The Lord’s Vineyard)

Context –  The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom  for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.

Today’s Reading – Isaiah is prophesying in Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the northern kingdom, Israel.  Israel is God’s vineyard which He transplanted from Egypt into the land of Canaan and carefully cared for and cultivated it. There is nothing that He did not do for His vineyard. Isaiah’s listeners are compelled to admit that absolutely nothing has been wanting in God’s dealings with them. The Planter and Cultivator of the vineyard naturally expects the vineyard to produce good fruit. But all it yields is “sour grapes”—bloodshed, oppression and infidelity. God sowed peace, but got violence from His people. God looked for true worship and got idolatry. God sowed seeds of justice, but injustice grew up. The message is clear. God has given all; Israel has yielded nothing. As a result, the Owner is going to withdraw His protecting hand and Israel will be transplanted into exile, subjected to a drought, and given the opportunity to repent and make a new choice for God.


Let me now sing of my Friend (God), my Friend’s song concerning His vineyard (the people of Israel). My Friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; He spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it He built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then He looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes. (All of this describes God’s careful preparation of the  Israelis to bring forth spiritual fruit. Yet all His work was for naught; His finest vines (the people) disappointed Him.)

Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard: What more was there to do for My vineyard that I had not done? Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? (All of this describes how then Isaiah confronted his audience, the people of Israel, by asking them – What more could God have done to insure a righteous relationship (a good crop) rather than incurring their sinfulness (a bad crop) ? The answer is that God did all that was necessary, but the people did not do their part.) Now, I will let you know what I mean to do with my vineyard: take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled! Yes, I will make it a ruin: it shall not be pruned or hoed, but overgrown with thorns and briers; I will command the clouds not to send rain upon it. (All of this prophesies that God will put the Israelis in exile.) The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant; he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry! (God requires righteousness from His people, but if we use our Free Will to produce the contrary, then we shall experience the consequences of our sins.)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Other symbolisms of Israel being a vineyard – Hosea 10:1-2 “Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth. The more abundant His fruit, the more altars He built; The more productive His land, the more sacred pillars He set up. Their heart is false! Now they will pay for their guilt: God will break down their altars and destroy their sacred pillars.”.  Jeremiah 2:21 – “But I had planted you as a choice vine, all pedigreed stock; How could you turn out so obnoxious to Me, a spurious vine?”.  Ezekiel 19:10-14 – ” Your mother was like a leafy vine planted by water, Fruitful and full of branches because of abundant water. One strong branch grew into a royal scepter. So tall it towered among the clouds, conspicuous in height, with dense foliage. But she was torn out in fury and flung to the ground; The east wind  withered her up, her fruit was plucked away; Her strongest branch dried up, fire devoured it. Now she is planted in a wilderness, in a dry, parched land. Fire flashed from her branch, and devoured her shoots; Now she does not have a strong branch, a royal scepter!”.



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 80:9,12-16,19-20                  (Safety in the Lord)

Today’s Psalm –  The theme of the vineyard is continued in this psalm. The psalmist petitions God to watch His vineyard.

God’s people are similar to a grape vine in that God has called us to be a blessing to others. However if we do not walk in trust and obedience, God may prune us back and limit our fruitfulness, with a view to increasing our ultimate productivity. The vine experiences blessing itself as it becomes a blessing to others. If we depart from God we need to call on Him to restore our fruitfulness and commit ourselves to Him again. (From Thomas Constable)


R. – The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
A vine from Egypt You transplanted; You drove away the nations and planted it. It put forth its foliage to the Sea, its shoots as far as the River.
R. – The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel. Why have You broken down its walls, so that every passer-by plucks its fruit
(The Lord has withdrawn His protection for Israel because the vineyard has not rendered good fruit – that is the people of Israel have abandon their God.), The boar from the forest (the devil) lays it waste, and the beasts of the field feed upon it?
R. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel. Once again, O LORD of hosts, look down from heaven, and see; take care of this vine, and protect what Your right hand has planted the son of man whom You Yourself made strong.
R. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel. Then we will no more withdraw from You; give us new life, and we will call upon Your name. O LORD, God of hosts, restore us; if Your face shine upon us, then we shall be saved.
R. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Reading 2.     Philippians 4:6-9                       (Wholesome Thoughts)      

Context – St. Paul founded the church in Philippi (in northern Greece) in 50 AD and this letter was written about ten years later. Philippians is a letter of thanks and encouragement to a congregation of dear friends of Paul. They supported the imprisoned apostle with their prayers and financial assistance. Much of this letter challenges the Philippians to grow in spiritual maturity and imitating both their Savior and their founding apostle. He holds up Jesus Christ as the model of humility and selfless love  and himself as a model of patient endurance.

Today’s Reading – Paul addresses the “worry warts” in the Philippian community.  In times of worry and anxiety, they are exhorted to turn to God in prayer and place their trust in Him. In doing so, they will come to know the “peace that surpasses all understanding.” Then Paul exhorts his readers to live lives patterned after Christ – live righteously. Christian thinking and behavior will open them to the kind of peace that only God can give.


Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true (valid, honest, and reliable), whatever is honorable (worthy of respect), whatever is just (upright), whatever is pure (moral purity), whatever is lovely (amiable, agreeable, or pleasing), whatever is gracious (kind and merciful), if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (This wholesome thinking should encourage and assist us with wholesome conduct, which will lead us to righteousness in the eyes of God.) Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. (We are all called to imitate the saints in what we do and say.) Then the God of Peace will be with you.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Gospel     Matthew 21:33-43                          (The Tenant Farmers)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – By this parable, our Savior teaches the Jews that the providence of God had wonderfully watched over them from the beginning, that nothing had been omitted to promote their salvation, and that notwithstanding His prophets had been put to most cruel deaths, still the Almighty was not turned away from them, but had at length sent down His only Son, who should suffer at their hands the inexpressible ignominies and tortures of His cross and passion. (From St. Chrysostom)


Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard (Again, the vineyard is representative of God’s chosen people.), put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. (This first part of the parable  reflects our Reading 1.) When vintage time drew near (Time for the harvest, time to rally the faithful.), he sent his servants (the prophets) to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son (Jesus).’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him (Jesus was crucified outside the walls of the city.). What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.(It is ironic that the chief priests, who are incriminated by the story, give the harsh answer.) Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? (Psalm 118:22-23) Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” (This Kingdom is the Church founded on Peter by Jesus. Peter and the apostles are the foundation, Jesus is the cornerstone which keeps the structure from collapsing. Due to the Jews rejection (their unrighteousness), this Church will now be taken to the Gentiles – taken from the unbelieving and given to the faithful.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          St. Augustine remarks, that this parable was addressed not only to the opponents of Christ’s authority, but likewise to the regular Jewish people.



Catechism 755 – The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing.  



 

SR-2017-10-01

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – October 1, 2017


“The growing knowledge of and the love of Christ, above all, prepares us to follow His call.” (St Ignatius)


26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Responsibility and Obedience.

In Reading 1, Ezekiel tells us that each of us is responsible for our own conduct, and will be judged accordingly.  In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that “actions (our conduct) speak louder than words.” In Reading 2, Paul reminds the Philippians that self-seeking and rivalry have no place in the Christian community.

Our obedience (i.e. follow His call) to God’s Word is our own responsibility and  it is shown by our conduct, not just by our words.


  • Reading 1 – Ezekiel 18:25-28      It is possible to turn from sin and preserve one’s life.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 25:4-9      A prayer to God for mercy.
  • Reading 2 Philippians 2:1-11     Be like Christ who humbled Himself and was exalted by God.
  • Gospel Matthew 21:28-32     Jesus poses a question to the chief priests and elders on the meaning of obedience.

NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.



Reading 1     Ezekiel 18:25-28                        (The Virtuous Person Shall Live)

Context – Ezekiel was a Hebrew priest and prophet, whose ministry to his fellow exiles in Babylon extended from 593 to 563 BC. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah. As a prophet to exiles, he assured his hearers of the abiding presence of God among them. He constantly emphasized the Lord’s role in the events of the day. He underscored the integrity of the individual  and his personal responsibility to God. To a helpless and hopeless people, he brought hope of restoration to homeland and temple by their just and holy God. Ezekiel is referenced more in the Book of Revelation than in any other New Testament writing.

Today’s Reading – Ezekiel tells his fellow exiles in Babylon that each individual will be held responsible for his/her individual sin. For the Israelites, this is a radical, new teaching.  Until now, they believe in what is called “corporate responsibility.  The idea of corporate responsibility means that they are now paying for the sins of their ancestors; hence, the words: “The Lord’s way is not fair,” found at the beginning of today’s reading. Ezekiel states clearly that we are responsible only for our own sins.  If the sinner repents, he/she will experience a whole new beginning with God.   Conversely, if the virtuous person sins, he/she will pay for his/her sins.


Thus says the LORD: You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!” Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? (To be a follower of God and to do what He wants you to do instead of what you want to do, means obedience: “We are not free to do what we want to do but free to do what we ought to do” – St Pope John Paul II)  When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die. (This is an early Old Testament reference to a life after death.)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 25:4-918                   (God’s Compassion)

Today’s Psalm –  This psalm speaks beautifully of God’s compassion for the sinner that turns to Him. The note of conversion, as the Psalmist sees his own sins in the light of God’s goodness, makes this psalm a suitable accompaniment for the change of heart (i.e. obedience) mentioned in Reading 1 and the Gospel reading.


R. – Remember Your mercies, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me Your paths, guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior. R. – Remember Your mercies, O Lord.
Remember that Your compassion, O LORD, and Your love are from of old. The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not; in Your kindness remember me, because of Your goodness, O LORD.
R. – Remember Your mercies, O Lord. Good and upright is the LORD; thus He shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, and teaches the humble His way.
(God is good, upright, loving, and faithful. Because He is this way He teaches sinners and guides the humble, those who sense their need for His help and are willing to be responsible for their actions and be obedient to God’s Word. He does so through His covenant (the Mosaic Law), testimonies of the prophets, and most importantly, via the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.)
R. – Remember Your mercies, O Lord.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Reading 2.     Philippians 2:1-11                     (Jesus is Lord)        

Context – St. Paul founded the church in Philippi (in northern Greece) in 50 AD and this letter was written about ten years later. Philippians is a letter of thanks and encouragement to a congregation of dear friends of Paul. They supported the imprisoned apostle with their prayers and financial assistance. Much of this letter challenges the Philippians to grow in spiritual maturity and imitating both their Savior and their founding apostle. He holds up Jesus Christ as the model of humility and selfless love  and himself as a model of patient endurance.

Today’s Reading – While in prison, Paul hears from his visitors about the bickering and division amongst his beloved Philippians.  From the deepest recesses of his heart, he appeals to them to change their destructive ways. Because they have been baptized into Christ, they are called to live responsively and be obedient to God’s Word. That is, live in a fellowship with others that should be characterized by love, humility, mutual respect, altruism and unity.  Paul holds Jesus up for his readers as their model for this transformation process.  Look at Jesus, even though He is God, He is willing to surrender His equality with God in order to become fully human. In placing before them the self-emptying of Christ, Paul is suggesting to the Philippians a radical de-centering of their lives— from self-absorption to self-giving.


Brothers and sisters: If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others. (For Paul, Christian love flows from the free disposition to forego concern for self as the driving force of life and replacing it with a practical concern for others.)

Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus (The secret of Christian joy is found in the way the believer thinks—their attitudes. “Let us strive at all times to have pure thoughts, righteous  ideas, an d holy intentions in our minds.” – St. Padre Pio), Who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. (“If Christ were only a man, He would have been said to have been ‘in the image of God,’ not ‘in the form of God.’ We know that humanity was made in the image, not the form, of God.”) Rather, He emptied Himself (The extreme limit of self-denial was shown by Jesus doing this. Jesus did not lay aside the form of God; He did not cease to be God. He added the “form” of man but without its sinfulness.), taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue (every people) confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend”  General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) # 275:  A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons (Trinity) are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated.



Gospel     Matthew 21:28-32                          (Obeying God’s Will)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – Jesus is now about one week away from His passion, death, and resurrection. Jesus has entered Jerusalem and overturned the money changers’ tables in the Temple. Jesus has caught the attention of the religious authorities. The chief priests and elders question Jesus about the source of His authority. Jesus refuses to name, for these religious leaders, the source of His authority. Instead, He questions the priests and elders through the parable we hear in today’s Gospel. The answer to the parable given by the religious leaders is correct, but it convicts them for their failure to heed the call of John the Baptist and for their inability to recognize the Kingdom of God.

The situation Jesus poses is rather straightforward. Given the same task by their father, one son asserts his disobedience in words, but then obeys in his actions; the second son obeys with his words, but disobeys in his actions. The question that Jesus poses is pointed and direct: Which son did what the father wanted? All would agree that “actions speak louder than words” and that even if his words were disobedient, the son who did the work as ordered did the father’s will.

Jesus’ conclusion is also direct. The chief priests and elders, the ones who speak most often about God, did not act accordingly. They did not respond to the message of repentance announced by John the Baptist  (See PAUSE, below) with a change of heart. Instead, John’s message was heeded by those that one would not expect to repent—tax collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners. Because of their actions, these sinners will enter the Kingdom of God ahead of the religious leaders.

Jesus could ask us the same question. Do our words indicate our obedience to God? If not our words, do our actions? God desires a full conversion of heart. It’s our responsibility that our actions (and our words as well) will give evidence of our love for God.


Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons (The distinction here is not between Jews and Gentiles, but between two kinds of Jews: faithless leaders and faithful outcasts.). He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard (God’s Kingdom on earth) today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not, ‘ but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, Yes, sir, ‘but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John [the Baptist] came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did (They saw the need to repent of their evil ways and did so.). Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.” (The leaders, by contrast, thought themselves righteous and did not see the need to repent and be reconciled with the Father. This parable has a counterpart in the gospel of Luke called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” – i.e. the contrast between the actions of the prodigal son versus his brother.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Canticle of Zachariah – “… You, my child (i.e. John the Baptist), shall be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His way, to give His people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. …”



Catechism 546 – Jesus’ invitation to enter His kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of His teaching. Through His parables He invites people to the feast of the Kingdom, but He also asks for a radical choice: to gain the Kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough, deeds are required. The parables are like mirrors for us: will we be hard soil or good earth for the word? What use have we made of the talents we have  received? Jesus and the presence of the Kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the Kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven”. For those who stay “outside”, everything remains enigmatic (being beyond one’s powers to know, understand, or explain). 



 

SR-2017-09-24

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – September 24, 2017


“I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to us. All the good from
The Savior of the world is communicated to us through this Book.”
(Abraham Lincoln)
“Humility is the realization that all your gifts,
blessings, and your good works/deeds come from the grace of God.”


25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Gods’ Generosity.

In Reading 1, we are told that “God’s ways are not our ways.” In the Gospel, we have a concrete example of this truth as we see how the latecomer laborers to the vineyard are treated equally with God’s generosity as are the other laborers. In Reading 2, Paul speaks of his desire to have Christ exalted in him.


  • Reading 1 – Isaiah 55:6-9      God’s ways are far beyond the ways of human beings.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 145:2-3,8-9,17-18      God is near to those who call upon Him.
  • Reading 2 Philippians 1:20c-24,27a      Paul tells the Philippians to live for Christ.
  • Gospel Matthew 20:1-16      In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, Jesus teaches about God’s generous mercy.

 


NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.



Reading 1     Isaiah 55:6-9                (Seek the Lord)

Context – The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom  for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.

Today’s Reading – The text from Isaiah 55 is from the post-Babylonian Captivity era, likely around the end of the 6th Century BC. The Jews had been technically freed from captivity with the fall of Babylon to Persia. They were in the process of being repatriated to Palestine and of rebuilding Jerusalem, including the Temple.

Isaiah was provoking God’s people to remember why their ancestors had been seemingly abandoned by God and allowed to fall to the Gentiles during the previous few centuries. He was prodding them into remembering how their national, religious and moral leadership had stepped away from their covenant with God. Now they had yet another opportunity to reconsider, redirect, and correct their community’s course. Think! Reflect! Consider! Change! Grow! Repent! Evolve! Improve! And you shall be a recipient of God’s generosity.


Seek the LORD while He may be found, call Him while He is near. (God can always be found and He is always near, but our dulled hearts may not recognize His presence. That is, Seek God while you have some spiritual sense in you. Seek Him before you lose all belief in Him.) Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. (God’s generosity is open for anyone to return to the Lord who may have wandered away from Him or rebelled against Him.) For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are My ways above your ways and My thoughts above your thoughts.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 145:2-3,8-9,17-18                 (The Nearness of God)

Today’s Psalm –  This is a psalm of praise to God for His mercy – for His nearness to us and for His generosity.


R. – The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.
Every day will I bless you, and I will praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD and highly to be praised; His greatness is unsearchable.
R. – The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.
The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger
(God’s anger prolongs itself, allowing for people to repent before punishment is inflicted.) and of great kindness. The LORD is good to all and compassionate toward all His works.
R. – The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.
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. R. – The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



 Reading 2.     Philippians 1:20c-24,27a                      (Life in Christ)        

Context – St. Paul founded the church in Philippi (in northern Greece) in 50 AD and this letter was written about ten years later. Philippians is a letter of thanks and encouragement to a congregation of dear friends of Paul. They supported the imprisoned apostle with their prayers and financial assistance. Much of this letter challenges the Philippians to grow in spiritual maturity and imitating both their Savior and their founding apostle. He holds up Jesus Christ as the model of humility and selfless love  and himself as a model of patient endurance.

Today’s Reading – Paul is writing from prison and is not sure whether he will get out alive. But it does not matter because for him “life is Christ and death is gain.” If he gets out of prison, that’s okay too; it will give him another opportunity to preach the Gospel. The bottom line for Paul is to serve Christ and His Gospel.  He urges his readers to have the same attitude.


Brothers and sisters: Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ (Paul has died to his former life and now lives an existence entirely taken over by Christ; one that transcends the barrier of physical death.) , and death is gain (Union with Christ). If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. (Remaining alive provides further opportunity for preaching the gospel and reaping its fruits.) And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.

Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ. (And you will be a recipient of God’s generosity.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Gospel     Matthew 20:1-16                            (The Workers in the Vineyard)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – Today’s Gospel occurs after Jesus moves from Galilee to teach in Judea where He is sought out by great crowds and tested by the Pharisees. The Gospel parable reminds us of God’s generosity (see THEME), which He offers abundantly and equally. We are occasionally tempted to think that our own actions deserve more reward, more of God’s abundant mercy, than the actions of others. But God’s generosity cannot be quantified or partitioned into different amounts for different people. When we think that way, we are trying to relate to God on our terms rather than to accept God’s radically different ways. Some of us find Christianity early in life and remain so throughout our life. Some of us find Christianity, leave it and then find it again prior to our death. Some of us find Christianity late in life but prior to our death. Some of us never find Christianity or have left it prior to our death (i.e. they may never have been taught the Way or may have incurred a terrible circumstance, or …). But in all cases Jesus has the same generous reward – Heaven, as He so judges our heart to grant It. So, you might say, I’ll take my chances and live my life as the song says “I Did It My Way”. While the rest of us are fortunate to learn to live our life, with our best efforts, based upon the teachings of the Scriptures, the Magisterium, and the Catholic Traditions which we believe greatly improve our chances of being acceptable to Jesus’ judgment. Individual Spiritual Direction is a good way for us to get the feedback we need as to how well we are proceeding on the Way.


Jesus told His disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard (The vineyard is symbolic of God’s chosen people.). After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. 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.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ (The wage is the same, yet it is not truly equal because of the boss’ generosity. The boss has counted their willingness to work.) He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ (The laborers are rebuked not for their dissatisfaction with what they have received, but for their dissatisfaction in the fact that others have received as much. By giving to one, the employer has not taken away from another.) Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (This parable is addressed to the Jewish people, whom God called at an early hour, centuries ago. Now the Gentiles are also being called – with an equal right to form part of the new people of God, the Church. It is a matter of gratuitous, unmerited, invitation; therefore those who were first to receive the invitation have no grounds for complaint when God calls the “last” and gives them the same reward – membership in His family. )


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           The hours of the workday, in the above parable, correspond to stages in life when people turn to God. When converted, they are rescued from idle living to serve Christ in his vineyard (Church/Kingdom), where they harvest much fruit for God before the sun sets on their earthly life. (From Origen)

At first reading, the laborers who were first hired seem to have a genuine grievance (envy) – because they do not realize that to have a job in the Lord’s vineyard is a divine gift. Jesus leaves no doubt that although we may all come by different paths, we all receive the same reward – the kingdom of heaven.



Catechism 2540 – Envy represents a form of sadness and therefore a refusal of charity; the baptized person should struggle against it by exercising good will. Envy often comes from pride; the baptized person should train themselves to live in humility:
Would you like to see God glorified by you? Then rejoice in your brother’s progress and you will immediately give glory to God. Because his                       servant could conquer envy by rejoicing in the merits of others, God will be praised. 



 

SR-2017-09-17

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – September 17, 2017


“A Christian’s longing should be to reflect the Lord to others.” (Charles Stanley)
“Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)


24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Be Kind and Merciful.

Both Reading 1 and the Gospel reading give us a strong message on forgiveness.  If we are to be like God, we must forgive each other over and over.  In Reading 2, Paul states that we are all God’s partners.

Being kind means to be of a good or caring nature or disposition as a person; having sympathy and consideration for others; given to anticipation of the needs and happiness of others.

Merciful means providing relief and compassionate treatment of those in distress; showing compassion and forgiveness to an offender or to one subject to one’s power.


  • Reading 1 – Sirach 27:30—28:9      Those who seek God’s mercy must be merciful toward others.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 103:1-4,9-12      A song of praise to God who is kind and merciful.
  • Reading 2 Romans 14:7-9      We belong to the Lord.
  • Gospel Matthew 18:21-35     Jesus teaches that we must forgive one another as God has forgiven us.

 


NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.



Reading 1     Sirach 27:30—28:9                  (The Need for Forgiveness)

Context – Sirach is one of seven Wisdom Books of the Bible (including: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs (aka. Song of Solomon), Ecclesiastes, and Wisdom of Solomon (aka. Wisdom) ). It’s one of the Books of the Apocrypha, and was written in 180 BC by a teacher of Old Testament law. It is a work of ethical teachings from approximately 200 to 180 BC. The teachings are applicable to all conditions of life: to parents and children, to husbands and wives, to the young, to friends, to the rich, and to the poor. Many of them are rules of courtesy and politeness; and a still greater number contain advice and instruction as to our duties toward ourselves and others, especially the poor, as well as toward society and the state, and most of all toward God.

Today’s Reading – If we do not forgive one another, what right have we to ask God to forgive us? The refusal to forgive and our tendency to seek revenge are in themselves a manifestation of sin, warns Sirach.


Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance, for He remembers their sins in detail. (See PAUSE, below) Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing (forgiveness) from the LORD? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins? If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins? Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           “The vengeful will suffer”Self-defense was allowable, but love was not to be laid aside. Exodus 21:24 – ” eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot”. This Old Testament principle is that the punishment must fit the crime and there should be a just penalty for evil actions. Excessive harshness (i.e. vengefulness) and excessive leniency should be avoided. In Matthew 5:17  Jesus said – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law [i.e. Ten Commandments] or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” So, when He said in Matthew 5:39 – “When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.”, He did not negate the above Old Testament principle because His concern was to add to it forgiveness and mercy. (See THEME).

The scripture lessons and parables generally assume that all parties in the Gospel narrative are fundamentally good people who try to be and are open to becoming ever-more reasonable, balanced, and just. The Gospel is not about terrorists or extremists. Terrorists and extremists, past and present, tend to be neither reasonable, nor balanced, nor just. Terrorists are anti-Gospel. (From The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild)



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 103:1-4,9-12                         (God’s Mercy)

Today’s Psalm –  This psalm is a meditation on the merciful face of God, which the Israelites have come to know so well through their history of sin and forgiveness.


R. – The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger (God’s anger prolongs itself, allowing for people to repent before punishment is inflicted.), and rich in compassion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
He will not always chide, nor does He keep His wrath forever. Not according to our sins does He deal with us, nor does He requite us according to our crimes.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is His kindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west
(See PAUSE, below)
, so far has He put our transgressions from us.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           “As far as the east is from the west” – If someone travels north or south they finally arrive at a pole from which they can proceed no farther north or south. However if someone travels east or west, they never reach such a point. God did not say He forgives our sins as far as the North is from the South but as far as the East is from the West, namely, infinitely.  



 Reading 2.     Romans 14:7-9                          (God’s Partners)     

Context – Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most influential of all his Epistles, and the only writing of Paul’s which is addressed to a church (congregation) which he did not establish. He addresses the grounds we have for hope in Christ. Sin and death came by Adam: grace and life by Christ. The saving work of Jesus is a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans – salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today’s Reading – In all we are, in all we say, in all we do, we are the Lord’s. Therefore, that belonging to the Lord inspires and influences us in all things, among all peoples, in every situation, in all places.


Brothers and sisters: None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (See PAUSE, below). For this is why Christ died and came to life, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           “we are the Lord’s” – The liberating act of Christ freeing human beings from bondage to the Mosaic law (all of its 613 specific commands), sin, and death, has enabled us to live for God (Christians belong to Christ in both life and death, having been purchased at the price of His blood.). This implies the service of God in all things; it is also the basis of a Christian’s social obligations. “This means that we are not free to do what we want but free to do as we ought.” – Saint John Paul II.



Gospel     Matthew 18:21-35                (Forgiving Our Neighbor)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – The story opens with Peter seeking to put limits on forgiveness. Jesus tells Peter: God does not put  limits on how often He forgives; neither must you put limits on how often you forgive others. Jesus tells us a parable to reinforce His point and to show how forgiveness freely given can be lost if not freely shared. The King in the story is God and we are the servants.  In failing to imitate his master, the servant is severely judged and reprimanded. God is like a King who expects His servants to offer each other the same mercy that He has shown them. To experience the reign of God is to experience the mercy of God in such a powerful way that we are, in turn, able to extend to others the same mercy God has given to us. We must fervently pray for strength to resist the temptation of getting even with those who have hurt us and pray for the grace to reflect the majestic generosity of the Kingdom of God.


Peter approached Jesus and asked Him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” (St. Peter knew the Jews of that time to be much given to revenge; he therefore thought it a great proof of superior virtue to be able to forgive seven times.)  Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. (This gives us an idea of the immense value of the forgiveness we receive from God when we go to Him in confession.)

  When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will My heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.” (Those whom God has forgiven must forgive as God has forgiven them. This demonstrates true humility. This forgiveness must be real, not pretended; from the heart, and not in word and appearance only; sacrificing all desire of revenge, all anger, hatred and resentment, at the shrine of charity.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           Let us imitate Joseph, who though reduced to a state of the most abject servitude, by the hatred of his unnatural brethren, yet in the affliction of his heart, employed all his power to succor them in their afflictions. Let us imitate Moses, who after a thousand injuries, raised his fervent supplications in behalf of his people. Let us imitate the blessed Paul, who, though daily suffering a thousand afflictions from the Jews, still wished to become an anathema (punished for the Jews disbelief in Jesus) for their salvation. Let us imitate Stephen, who, when the stones of his persecutors were covering him with wounds, prayed that the Almighty would pardon their sin. Let us follow these admirable examples, then shall we extinguish the flames of anger, then will our heavenly Father grant us the forgiveness of our sins, through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. (From St. Chrysostom)

The ultimate example of forgiveness is that of our Dear Lord Jesus Christ. In His humanity, as He hung on the cross, He said – “Father forgive them.”


Catechism 2843 – Thus the Lord’s words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end, become a living reality. The parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord’s teaching on ecclesial (suitable for use in a Church) communion, ends with these words: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” It is there, in fact, “in the depths of the heart,” that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession (a prayer for the offender).



 

SR-2017-09-10

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – September 10, 2017


“If we get to heaven, wouldn’t it be terrible if we saw a family member or loved one being rejected and
having them see us and exclaim – when we were together why didn’t you tell me about this wonderful place?” (EWTN) 


23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Actions of a Just and Strong Believer.

The just believer tries to imitate the God of Justice and the strong believer appreciates the danger of excessive use of power – these types of believers follow God’s example for being able to engage and handle the messiest aspects of life with compassion, wisdom, and finesse. (From The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild)

All three readings speak about the importance of right relationships and  personal responsibility. Reading 1 and the Gospel reading address the issue of how to respond to a church member (but expandable to a family member, or friend) who is walking a sinful and wrong path.  In Reading 2, Paul tells us that in following the way of love, we fulfill the law.


  • Reading 1 – Ezekiel 33:7-9      The Son of Man is appointed as guardian of Israel.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 95:1-2,6-9      Song of praise to God, our Salvation.
  • Reading 2 Romans 13:8-10      The Law is summarized in the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Gospel Matthew 18:15-20     Jesus teaches His disciples how to settle disputes in the Church.

 


NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.



Reading 1     Ezekiel 33:7-9                            (Warning the Wicked)

Context – Ezekiel was a Hebrew priest and prophet, whose ministry to his fellow exiles in Babylon extended from 593 to 563 BC. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah. As a prophet to exiles, he assured his hearers of the abiding presence of God among them. He constantly emphasized the Lord’s role in the events of the day. He underscored the integrity of the individual and his personal responsibility to God. To a helpless and hopeless people, he brought hope of restoration to homeland and temple by their just and holy God. Ezekiel is referenced more in the Book of Revelation than in any other New Testament writing.

Today’s Reading – In our reading today we hear Ezekiel tell of his role as watchman for the Israelites, the one who is to initiate correction. God reminded Ezekiel that He had appointed him a watchman for the Israelites. He was responsible to deliver the Lord’s messages to His people. If Ezekiel failed to warn the people that they would die for their sins, God would hold him responsible for their deaths. But if Ezekiel warned the sinners of the consequences of their iniquity and they disregarded his warning, they would die, but God would hold them, not Ezekiel, responsible.



Thus says the LORD: You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear Me say anything, you shall warn them for Me. If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die, ” and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself. (Israel is in trouble. Ezekiel is their prophet but he must work on an individual basis. Just as a mile is walked one step at a time, there is no salvation for Israel as a whole, but for each individual according to his merits.)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Warning others of the consequences of judgment inherent in sin is never a popular assignment. Believers have a duty to be ‘watchmen’ who warn those who are in the world and are without God of the destructive nature of sin and its final irrevocable result—death and hell. Our responsibility is to warn [i.e. be a just believer] and proclaim as persuasively and gentle as possible [i.e. be  a strong believer], but how the message is received is beyond our control. (From Thomas Constable)



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 95:1-2,6-9                             (Answering the Lord’s Call)

Today’s Psalm –  This Psalm echoes the call to conversion imparted in Reading 1 and the Gospel reading, “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts,”.


R. – If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD; let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation. Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to Him.
(These two versus and the following two, summon us to worship the Lord.)
R. – If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us. For He is our God, and we are the people He shepherds, the flock He guides.
R. – If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear His voice: “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, where your fathers tempted Me; they tested Me though they had seen My works.”
(These versus are a Prophetic warning against disobedience to God.)

R. – If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           Meribah and Massah are two names for the same place in the desert where Moses was leading the Israelites during the Exodus. The people complained loudly about the need for more water. God told Moses to speak to a large rock (a symbol of Jesus) near them. But Moses struck the rock twice. Water did flow forth but God chastised Moses for not trusting Him by his striking the rock and thus prevented him from leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. However, God gave Moses a preview of the Promised Land prior to his death and burial. 



Reading 2.     Romans 13:8-10                        (Love of Neighbor) 

Context – Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most influential of all his Epistles, and the only writing of Paul’s which is addressed to a church (congregation) which he did not establish. He addresses the grounds we have for hope in Christ. Sin and death came by Adam: grace and life by Christ. The saving work of Jesus is a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans – salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today’s Reading – Christian love must be sincere, without hypocrisy, and must manifest itself in heartfelt affection for one’s brothers and sisters in the community, even for one’s enemies (one tough assignment!) and anyone in need. In the context of today’s readings, it can also be noted that genuine love sometimes calls us to reach out to an erring brother or sister with the purpose of drawing him/her back into God’s ways.


Brothers and sisters: Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Paul wants us to have peace with everyone and love the brethren. Then we shall not owe anybody anything. He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law of Moses. The commandment of the New Covenant is that we should love our enemies as well. – Ambrosiaster) The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet, ” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law. (If you love somebody, you will not kill them. Nor will you commit adultery, steal from them or bear false witness against them. It is the same with all the other commands of the law: love ensures that they are kept. – Origen)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Gospel     Matthew 18:15-20                (Communal Correction and Prayer)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – In today’s Gospel reading,  Jesus addresses how the Christian community should deal with a member who sins. Jesus outlines a procedure for settling such matters fairly. This is one of the ways in which the members of the Church must seek out the sheep that has wandered. This is loving correction. The community must reflect the merciful love of Christ. Unfortunately, there are far too many Christians today who pay no heed to the serious obligation of encouraging an erring church member, family member, or friend  to give up their sinful ways.


Jesus said to His disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. (A serious step which is taken only where the welfare of the community is at stake. Jesus welcomes tax collectors (St. Matthew had been one himself at the time of his calling) but only when they showed faith and repented of their sins.)  Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (The apostles are given the power to bind and loose, the same power that was given to Peter. Note that there is one significant difference, they have not been given the keys; this symbol of authority has been reserved for Peter as the Chief Apostle (and first Pope).) Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. (From the very beginning the Church has practiced communal prayer in addition to encouraging individual prayer. ) For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           God fully warns us to be prepared for difficulties when following our obligation in drawing one’s attention to their erring ways –  Proverbs 9:7 “Whoever corrects the arrogant/scoffer earns insults/abuse; and whoever reproves the wicked incurs injury.”



Catechism 1443 – During His public life Jesus not only forgave sins, but also made plain the effect of this forgiveness: He reintegrated forgiven sinners into the community of the People of God from which sin had alienated or even excluded them. A remarkable sign of this is the fact that Jesus receives sinners at His table, a gesture that expresses in an astonishing way both God’s forgiveness and the return to the bosom of the People of God.



 

SR-2017-09-03

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – September 3, 2017


“The growing knowledge of and the love of Christ, above all, prepares us to follow His call.” (St. Ignatius)
“Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)  


22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Love Implies Sacrifice.

Reading 1 and the Gospel reading speak about the cost of faithfulness. The passion/sufferings (sacrifices) of Jeremiah foreshadow the passion (sacrifice) of Jesus, which He speaks about in the Gospel. In Reading 2, Paul speaks about offering ourselves as a “living sacrifice” to God.

Sacrifice means – surrendering something of value for something of greater value. The Eucharist is a true sacrifice, not just a commemorative meal. The sacrificial character of Jesus’ instruction, “Do this in remembrance of Me” can be translated “Offer this (i.e. our sacrificing of our Unchristian way of life  for a Christian way of life) as my memorial offering.”


  • Reading 1 – Jeremiah 20:7-9      Jeremiah laments but cannot fail to speak in God’s name.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 63:2-6,8-9      Our souls yearn for God.
  • Reading 2 Romans 12:1-2      Paul encourages the Romans to stay faithful to God.
  • Gospel Matthew 16:21-27     Jesus speaks of His Passion (sacrifice) and rebukes Peter for his objection.

NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.



Reading 1     Jeremiah 20:7-9                       (Power of God’s Will)

Context – The Lord called Jeremiah to prophetic ministry in about 626 BC, just before and during the exile, and ended sometime after 580 BC in Egypt. He resided in the Southern Kingdom, ie. Judah. He was appointed to reveal the sins of the people, the coming consequences (ie. exile), and hope for the future (ie. bring his people to a state of perseverance for a better life after the exile). Jeremiah weeps for sinful Judah, and is called “the  crying prophet”. Jeremiah was viewed as a traitor and persecuted more intensely than any other Hebrew prophet ever had been.

Today’s Reading – During a turbulent time in Israel’s history, Jeremiah is called by God to deliver a message that his people do not want to hear. Jeremiah must denounce corruption in the temple liturgy and condemn the people’s dabbling in foreign cults, chastise them for their many breaches of the covenant, and castigate them for ignoring the poor. But the people beat him up and throw him in a dark dungeon. Being a messenger of God is no fun – it incurs many sacrifices.


You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped; You were too strong for me, and You triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. (Jeremiah is not charging God with any untruth; but what he calls duping, was only the concealing from him, when he accepted the prophetical commission, the greatness of the evils which the execution of that commission was to bring upon him. God never promised Jeremiah that he would not suffer persecution.)

Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the LORD has brought me derision and reproach all the day. (Jeremiah felt that he was always shouting messages of impending disaster, and these announcements had resulted in people criticizing and ridiculing him constantly.)

I say to myself, I will not mention Him, I will speak in His name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it. (Regardless, Jeremiah could not however refrain from speaking. For Jeremiah, the only thing worse than being God’s prophet is saying “no” to God’s call.)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.    



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 63:2-6,8-9                             (Longing for God)

Today’s Psalm –  This beautiful psalm expresses the author’s intense longing to be in the presence of God. Most likely, this psalm expresses the thoughts and feelings of Jeremiah on his better days.


R – My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.
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.
R. – My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.
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.
(“to see” what/whom? – in the OT, it  relates to the Arc of the Covenant; in the NT,  it relates to Jesus Christ.)

R. My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless You while I live; lifting up my hands
(a gesture of prayer and doing good works), 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.
R. My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.
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.
R. My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.       



Reading 2.     Romans 12:1-2                          (A Living Sacrifice)

Context – Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most influential of all his Epistles, and the only writing of Paul’s which is addressed to a church (congregation) which he did not establish. He addresses the grounds we have for hope in Christ. Sin and death came by Adam: grace and life by Christ. The saving work of Jesus is a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans – salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today’s Reading – In acknowledgment of God’s goodness, followers of Christ are to seek to make Christian values permeate every aspect of their lives. Authentic liturgy is not something that just takes place in church. Ideally, our whole life is an act of worship to God. Offering ourselves to God means conforming to His will and not to the temptations of the world. Verse 1 deals with making the commitment – an explicit act, to conforming to His will and verse 2 with maintaining it – maintaining a lifelong process.



I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice (as opposed to the OT offering of slain animals as sacrifices), holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age (Our current age seeks to exclude God from life.) but 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 (Total commitment to the lordship of Jesus Christ is a prerequisite for experiencing God’s will.).


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you         “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice”   We obey this command to “offer ourselves” in each Eucharistic prayer when we respond to the Priest when he says “Lift up your hearts” and we say  “We lift them up to the Lord.” We are placing our lives on the altar along with the offering of bread and wine – so that our lives, along with the bread and wine, can be transformed by God into something even more pleasing to Him. 



Gospel     Matthew 16:21-27                (Taking Up the Cross)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – Peter has yet to learn that Jesus will not be a regal warrior type of hero, but a humble, suffering Messiah. Then Jesus goes on to speak about the cost and  rewards of discipleship. The disciples must be willing to embrace the crosses of life and die to themselves, i.e., to their false self―proud, vain, self-seeking – sacrifices.  Jesus, not oneself, must be the center of one’s life.  In dying to the desires of the false self, we will discover and grow into our true (Christ) self. The Gospel concludes with a reminder that ahead for each of us is a day of reckoning. Our words and deeds will have eternal consequences.


Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes (The three groups which compose the Sanhedrin, the elders were lay leaders.), and be killed and on the third day be raised. (Jerusalem is the city where the prophets die (Matthew 23:29-39). Imagine the disillusionment of the disciples at this point – He has just previously been revealed as the Messiah and instead of military victory and prosperity, He is speaking of suffering and rejection.) Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to You.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me (Remain a follower; you are not yet ready to lead.), Satan! (Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. Peter is acting like Satan and tempting Jesus.) You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Peter’s natural instincts object to a suffering Messiah. At this time, He cannot understand the spiritual necessity of Jesus’ Passion for sinners.)  

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. (Jesus indicates that suffering and self-denial (sacrifices) are central to the Christian life.) For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world (Acquire great wealth.) and forfeit his life (Here life is not merely physical existence, but one’s higher or spiritual life.)? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with His angels in His Father’s glory, and then He will repay all according to his conduct.” (This is a picture of the rewards of discipleship. The Son of Man acts as judge and the kingdom is His. )


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.



Catechism 736 – By the power of the Spirit, God’s children can bear much fruit. He who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear “the fruit of the Spirit: . . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. “We live by the Spirit”; the more we renounce ourselves, the more we “walk by the Spirit.” [Personal Sacrifices].

Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven, and adopted as children, given confidence to call God “Father” and to share in Christ’s grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory.



 

SR-2017-08-27

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – August 27, 2017


“Let us therefore yield ourselves and bow to the authority of the Holy Scriptures,
which can neither err nor deceive.”
(St. Augustine)


21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Authority.

Reading 1 and the Gospel reading speak about the conferral of keys of authority. In Reading 2, Paul bows down before the authority of God whose ways are inscrutable and full of wisdom.

The authority our leaders attain upon their election is just like our own Free Will. It can be used under the direction of God for the good of all or it can be used inappropriately. Helping to deal with the aspects of their inappropriate use of authority, it helps to remind ourselves how we should live as just believers, strong believers, and wise believers. “The just believer tries to imitate the God of Justice and the strong believer appreciates the danger of excessive use of power – these types of believers appreciate God for being able to engage and handle the messiest aspects of life with compassion, wisdom and finesse. Such is true wisdom. Wise believers likewise willingly wade into the fray of life and risk the chaos, the complications, the injustices, and the human foibles of all such issues. Wise believers who engage life survive and thrive even as they respect everyone concerned.” (From The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild) All of this is good medicine for today’s rampant political polarization and disingenuousness in America!

“The confession of love must precede the bestowing of authority; authority without love is tyranny.” (Venerable Fulton J. Sheen)


  • Reading 1 – Isaiah 22:19-23      God will remove Shebna from his office as master of the palace.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 138:1-3,6,8      God’s kindness is forever.
  • Reading 2 Romans 11:33-36      Paul sings praise to God.
  • Gospel Matthew 16:13-20     Simon Peter acknowledges Jesus as the Christ and is given the key to the Kingdom of Heaven

NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.



Reading 1     Isaiah 22:19-23                        (The Gift of Authority)

Context – The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom  for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.

Today’s Reading – The prophet Isaiah is delivering God’s judgment to a disgraced public official, Shebna, who supports Israel’s military alliance with one pagan nation (Egypt) against another (Assyria). The failed alliance is disastrous for Israel, which the prophet attributes to a failure to trust in the Lord alone. Shebna will therefore be removed from his position of trust and honor and a successor named – Eliakim. The Lord promises, “I will give over to him your authority….  I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder” (Isaiah 22:21, 22). The basis for conferring this symbolic key of power is of course Eliakim’s perceived trust in the Lord God alone.


Thus says the LORD to Shebna, master of the palace: “I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. On that day I will summon My servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. (This reflects the quality of his rule. He will care for them like they are his own children.)  I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut when he shuts, no one shall open. I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family.” (This is the same process and power that Christ conferred on St. Peter, when He gave him the keys of heaven – See Gospel, below.)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          We can learn from God’s replacement of Shebna with Eliakim and not put too much hope in our leaders and not enough in our God that He will resolve the problem of poor leadership.  



Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 138:1-3,6,8                           (God’s Eternal Love)

Today’s Psalm –  In this hymn of thanksgiving, the Psalmist, unlike Shebna in Reading 1, above, places his confidence in God.


R. – Lord, Your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of Your hands.
I will give thanks to You, O LORD, with all my heart, for You have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels I will sing Your praise; I will worship at Your holy temple.
R. – Lord, Your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of Your hands.
I will give thanks to Your name, because of Your kindness and Your truth: When I called, You answered me; You built up strength within me.
R. – Lord, Your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of Your hands.
The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly
(respectful) He sees, and the proud (self-righteous) He knows from afar. (See PAUSE, below) Your kindness, O LORD, endures forever; forsake not the work of Your hands.
R. – Lord, Your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of Your hands.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly (respectful) He sees, and the proud (self-righteous) He knows from afar.Our Lord is a good role model figure, for authority behavior, for our leaders  in the way they should relate to all of the people.


Reading 2.     Romans 11:33-36                      (Eternal Glory)       

Context – Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most influential of all his Epistles, and the only writing of Paul’s which is addressed to a church (congregation) which he did not establish. He addresses the grounds we have for hope in Christ. Sin and death came by Adam: grace and life by Christ. The saving work of Jesus is a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans – salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today’s Reading – God’s riches and fullness, His wisdom and knowledge, are highlighted in this passage. God’s riches convey the sense of overflowing abundance of a God whose very being, whose love and fidelity, can neither be contained nor limited. As the Scripture attests, God’s ways of doing things are often not our ways. One can only respond with awe to God’s mysterious ways. God’s knowledge and understanding surpass all human designs. God’s wisdom is something we receive as a gift from Him through the Holy Spirit.


Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are His judgments and how unsearchable His ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been His counselor?” (Isaiah 40:13) “Or who has given the Lord anything that He may be repaid?” (Job 35:7  and 41:11) For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen. (This is much like the doxology we hear at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer “Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever. Amen.”)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           “Or who has given the Lord anything that He may be repaid?” – Here is another good example of God’s good role model for authority behavior by not ever having to repay anyone for His position or actions. 



Gospel     Matthew 16:13-20                (The First Pope)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading –  Almost as a fugitive from His enemies, Jesus took His disciples to the far northern extremity of Jewish influence, the most northerly place Jesus visited – the region of Caesarea Philippi. At this place, as far from Jerusalem and Jesus’ opponents as possible, Jesus proceeded to give them important revelation concerning what lay ahead for Him and them. Here Peter would make the great confession of the true identity of Jesus, whereas in Jerusalem to the south the Jews would deny His identity.


Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (The title “Son of Man” is a title which Jesus applies to Himself, it is never applied by His disciples. It refers back to Daniel 7:13.) They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah (Even today when the Passover Seder is celebrated in the Jewish household, a place is set for Elijah.) , still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ (Messiah, Anointed One by God), the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. (Recall that it was Jonah who announced the impending destruction of Nineveh and successfully effected repentance of the people. This could be an early symbol of Peter’s role. ) For flesh and blood (human beings) has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter (rock), and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of the netherworld (Prior to Jesus’ resurrection, due to Original Sin all the souls of the dead went to this place called the netherworld.) shall not prevail against it (The gates of the netherworld will not prevail because even if the occupant of the office dies, the office will continue.). I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind (forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful) on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose (permit, declare lawful) on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Again just as in Reading 1, where the power to open and shut were given, here the ability to bind and loose are given. Notice that the binding and loosing are initiated on earth but are confirmed in heaven.)  Then He strictly ordered His disciples to tell no one that He was the Christ. (He wished that the people would believe Him to be their Messiah, but His hour had not yet come and  the apostles were not yet fit to deliver, nor the people to receive, this grand belief. Plus it might moreover have proved a hindrance to His death.)


PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           Just as in Reading 1, the office of Peter is a perpetual office; in fact it is the same office which was once occupied by Shebna and Eliakim. The position continues even though the occupant changes. Each occupant of the office of Peter is invested with the keys and the responsibility to bind and loose for the entire Church. This is why the popes are called the “Successors of Peter.”

The primacy of Peter (which each of his successors hold) is not an invention of the Church. It is something granted by Christ Himself. The failures of some popes throughout history do not contradict Jesus’ promise that “the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church.” Peter himself failed the Lord.  In giving authority and primacy to the one who will deny Him, Jesus is communicating to us that His Church was not established on human strength, but on His own divine love and faithfulness. The Church’s true foundation is Christ Himself.  The Pope is His servant.

Abraham was called “the rock” from which the children of Israel were hewn (see Isaiah 51:1-2). And Peter becomes the rock from which God raises up new children of God (see Matthew 3:9).



Catechism 153 – When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come “from flesh and blood”, but from “My Father who is in heaven”. Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by Him. “Before this faith can be exercised, humankind must have the grace of God to move and assist them; they must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'”

Catechism 1445 – The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into His. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God.