Today’s Good News: God is far more generous than we would ever expect. However, this may not always make you happy. When Isaiah calls to the scoundrel and the wicked to “turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving,” (55:7) you might react: “Well, okay, but there should be some punishment, an appropriate retribution for past sins. That’s only fair and just.” But Jesus takes God’s generosity even further in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. The owner pays the same amount to those who have slaved through the morning, under the hot noonday sun, and into early evening as to those who showed up at end of the day. Unfair? Remember, this is a kingdom of heaven parable, proclaiming God’s generous mercy for all. We ourselves are invited not only to know the generosity of God, but to show the generosity of God, just as Saint Paul is willing to do. He is willing to stay with the Philippians, even though he is yearning to be with Christ.
How is God asking you to express generosity in your life?READ MORE
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jim Wallis confronting racism, Dorothy Day and Pope Francis addressing our indifference to the poor. In the Gospel, Jesus addresses his disciples about their responsibility to correct each other. We find a process of brotherly and sisterly correction outlined here. One of the spiritual works of mercy, “admonishing the sinner,” flows from this text. What might sound like giving up in the face of another's refusal to reform by “treat[ing] [that person] as you would a Gentile or a tax collector,” is not abandonment (Matthew 18:17). Remember, Jesus himself ate with sinners and tax collectors. Saint Paul sums it up succinctly: “Love does no evil to the neighbor” (Romans 13:10).
Has God ever worked through you to help heal a broken relationship? How?READ MORE
Jeremiah is lamenting, complaining about God’s behavior, feeling upended: “You duped me...and I let myself be duped” (20:7). True, God had said the prophet was being sent to root up and tear down, but God had also said Jeremiah was to build and to plant. Only the first part seemed to be happening and the people hated Jeremiah and his message: “I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me” (20:7). Peter also might have felt upended. Having received the highest praise after acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, he was promised the keys of the kingdom of heaven. But then, when Jesus went on to talk about having to suffer and die, and Peter objected, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing,” Jesus called him “Satan,” an obstacle, and said, “Get behind me” (Matthew 16:22, 23). But this wasn’t a rejection of Peter. Peter was to follow Jesus, not lead. Peter was not yet in possession of the keys. He had to change his thinking. Saint Paul translates this event: “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:12).
How’s your thinking these days? Does it need to change?READ MORE
A key can be very important. Two of today’s readings feature keys as a symbol of authority that grants access. In Isaiah, the prophet is sent to announce that God is taking they keys away from Shebna, the king’s prime minister of the palace, and giving them to Eliakim, to grant the people access and to meet their needs. The image of the keys also appears in our Gospel. Jesus asks what the people are saying about him, and then, what the apostles themselves think about him. Simon’s answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” is rewarded (Matthew 16:16). Jesus recognizes that the Father is at work in Simon, and gives him a new name, “Peter,” meaning rock. Jesus then declares, “Upon this rock I will build my church...I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven” (16:18, 19). With this, Peter becomes the head of the apostles, but his education in holding the keys will continue. What explains God’s choice? Saint Paul reminds us how inscrutable are God’s judgments and how unsearchable God’s ways. God often chooses to work through weak human beings for the good of others.
Through what unexpected person has God worked for your benefit?READ MORE
Inclusion is God’s plan. God’s desire is that all God’s children enter into community with each other and with God. Today’s three readings invite us to reflect on a biblical vision of the relations between Christians and Jews and to extend that to all God’s children. The final section of the book of Isaiah envisions God bringing “foreigners” who have “join[ed] themselves to the Lord” to God’s holy mountain, where their prayer and offerings will be acceptable to God and God’s house shall be called “a house of prayer for all peoples” (56:6,7), Saint Paul emphasized that God called Israel to be a light to the nations, drawing them from disobedience through God’s mercy revealed in Christ; God will not abandon Israel but will once again show mercy. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is truly the face of the Father’s mercy, extending it to a Caananite woman and her sick daughter because of the mother’s faith. Faith is the bond holding all together, allowing everyone a seat at the table. Faith is what unites the heart of all people with the heart of God.
Are you ready for all who will be seated at the table when God’s kingdom comes?READ MORE
Lord, save me!” Peter shouts (Matthew 14:30). He is sinking not just into the water washing over him; he is drowning in fear. What happened? Listen carefully. At first, the apostles think it is a ghost coming toward them across the water in he dark night. They cry out in fear. But Jesus calms them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” (14:27). Fear is one of the greatest threats in the Bible. Many times people are told not to be afraid. Fear indicates a loss of faith. Peter, however, responds to Jesus’ call to courage: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water?” (14:28). Jesus simply says, “Come,” so “Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus” (14:29). Read that line again. But then, “when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened” and he began to sink (14:30). Fear replaces faith. Peter watches the waves, not Jesus—but not totally: “Lord, save me!” Then, “Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (14:31).
Is this the question Jesus asks you? When has your fear overcome your faith?READ MORE
This is My beloved Son...Listen to Him.
Today we remember that glimpse of glory given to Peter, James, and John when Jesus had taken them up a mountain to pray with him. Imagine what it must have been like for these three fishermen to see Jesus, whom they had come to know as their leader and friend, as a preacher, teacher, wonderworker, exorcist, healer, and forgiver of sins, suddenly transformed, radiant, brilliant, engaged in conversation with two of the greatest figures in their history, Moses and Elijah. For a few moments they saw Jesus in full glory, then heard a voice from heaven call him "my Son," telling them—and us—"listen to him" (Matthew 17:5). We also hear the prophet Daniel's vision of God in heaven, the Ancient One, receiving someone called the Son of Man and "giving him dominion, glory and kingship" over all peoples and nations (Daniel 7:14). This vision in Daniel captures Jesus' final destiny, but first there was the cross. The Eucharist reminds us that we are destined for glory with Christ. But first we continue to live out the dying to selfishness and sin, thereby offering others glimpses into the glory yet to come.
How are you being called to "listen to him"?READ MORE
What would move you to sell all you have to possess something of great value? Two parables today present such behavior. In the first, the finder accidentally stumbles over a treasure hidden in a field, but once he discovers it, he goes and sells everything to buy the field. And he does this with joy. In the second parable, a merchant is deliberately searching for fine pearls and when he comes upon one, he also sells everything to purchase it. What is Jesus saying here? Whether you stumble upon the kingdom of heaven or deliberately seek it out, once you find it, it is worth giving all you have. The kingdom of heaven is Matthew's way of talking about God's presence in life, the gift of God that is God. In the first reading, young King Solomon responds to God's offer—Ask for anything and I will give it—by requesting wisdom, that is, an understanding heart to judge justly and wisely. Wonderful! Paul names another great gift as the call to love God, a gift given to us at Baptism.
What treasure do you seek? What gift do you ask God fortoday?READ MORE
A “no weeds” approach to life is tempting. When we find an idea, a value, an action, or even a person or group of people that threatens what we think or do, appreciate, or honor, the tendency is to oppose it. Cut down this weed and burn it. Jesus counters this impulse in today’s parable of the weeds and the wheat. Premature action could lead to destruction of life. So, the wise householder decides to let weeds and wheat grow together until harvest, so the wheat can be saved. This parable mirrors the reading from Wisdom, which speaks of God as one who judges with clemency and governs with leniency, giving people “good ground” in which to grow. Such divine generosity is also exhibited in the parable of the tiny mustard seed that grows into a bush housing all the birds who dwell in its branches, and in the parable of the yeast that signals the penetrating power of God’s mercy. St. Paul writes about the Spirit interceding for us even in our weakness. Overall, today’s scriptures place God firmly on our side, even when destructive powers (“weeds”) threatens to overwhelm us.READ MORE
For Isaiah, God’s word is like the rain and snow that come down from heaven, making the earth fertile and fruitful. God’s word is both effective and efficacious. For the next three weeks, we hear Jesus the storyteller, sowing parables as seeds that will bear fruit by revealing the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. A seed is a wonderful symbol of God’s power working through something small, which often seems to be God’s way of doing things. This third great discourse of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel gathers together stories Jesus told during his ministry. These parables enable the proclamation of God’s ongoing presence and working in our world and our lives. The seed of God’s word continues to fall into the soil of our communities and our individual lives or ends up being choked off by our cares or our indifference. But at other times, God’s word does send down roots and bears fruit beyond all expectation. Through this word, God enters into conversation with us. Which of Jesus’ teachings do you see bearing fruit in yourself? Which needs some effort on your part?READ MORE
In today’s Gospel, notice how Jesus praises God, first as Father, then as Lord of heaven and earth, bringing together intimacy and transcendence. His primary relationship with the One Israel called Lord is captured by the word “Father.” This relationship of Father-Son defined Jesus in a way that takes us into the heart of the mystery of the Trinity. But then Jesus opens his relationship to us: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one know the father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). More wonderful still is Jesus’ revelation to us that Father has revealed “these things” to the little ones rather than the wise and learned. What “things” are these? The truth that the Son is meek and humble of heart, the one foretold by Zechariah as coming not as a warrior but as a peacemaker, bringing peace to the nations, a cause for rejoicing. In a world so often torn by war and violence, Jesus wishes us to put on his yoke, to be guided living in the Spirit of God (Romans 8).
Do you ask the Son to reveal the Father to you...daily?READ MORE
“one-liners” and consider each one separately. Jesus is to be the first love of the missionary. The missionary has to be willing to take up the cross as Jesus did, to give his life for Christ’s sake. On the other hand, those who receive these missionaries receive Christ, and they will be rewarded. We see this happening in the first reading, when the hospitality of the childless woman of Shunem is eventually rewarded by the prophet, who tells her that she will have a son within a year. The reading from Romans shows us the generosity of God when we give ourselves over to dying with Christ in living out our Baptism: If we die with him, we shall live with him.
How are you “living for God in Christ Jesus” by participating in the work of a missionary who proclaims Jesus Christ by your life?READ MORE