As we live in a world in which people are fleeing their homeland and seeking refuge in unwelcoming countries, today’s readings from Exodus and the Gospel are particularly timely, serving as reminders of how God’s word calls us to love God and all God’s children, but especially the vulnerable, powerless, and poor. In biblical times, the prophets threatened God’s anger particularly at the neglect of widows and orphans who were reduced to lives of begging, starvation, and abuse. In modern times, it is refugees and immigrants, especially women and children, and the urban and rural poor who suffer violence, hunger, and death. Loving God and loving neighbor cannot be separated. Saint Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they became imitators of him and of the Lord after receiving the word of God, and thus they became models for all other believers in the vicinity. Then, they proclaimed it to others and embodied it in their lives. The word of God instructs us that we are all God’s children and calls us to care for each other.
We must remember how much we have been given and ask: How can we imitate God’s generosity? How can we make a return to the Lord?READ MORE
The prophet called Second Isaiah, writing during the time of Israel’s exile in Babylon, was not afraid to get involved in politics. A new power was rising in the middle East, the Persian Empire under the leadership of Cyrus, which would overthrow Babylon. The prophet sees this as a divine intervention, done for the sake of Israel. In contrast, Jesus is careful not to give his enemies any ammunition as they try to trap him into commenting on the political situation of his day. The Roman coin carried the image of the emperor, proclaiming Caesar divine. A devout Jew would not even have one on him. When the issue of paying taxes comes up, Jesus first asks for a coin. (While Jesus does not have one, the Pharisees do!) His retort, “Give to Caesar what belong to Caesar,” is simply a call to return Caesar’s image to him (cf. Matthew 22:21). But we are to give what carries God’s image—the human heart, mind, and soul—to God. Saint Paul’s words opening his first Letter to the Thessalonians suggests how we carry this out: by living lives of faith, love, and hope.
Do you see yourself as part of God’s true wealth, to be spent doing good for others?READ MORE
The comforting words of Isaiah offer an image of the end of time, when all nations will come to God’s holy mountain for a great feast of rich food and choice wines. This occasion will mark the celebration of God’s final conquest of death, when every tear will be wiped away and we will know God as our savior. How fitting that this reading is often used at funerals. Jesus also turns to the image of a feast, now a wedding feast, but his parable presents more challenge than comfort. Those invited have refused, even treating abusively those sent to gather the guests. The early church heard in this the story of Jesus’ own rejection and death at the hand of Israel’s leaders. What is here for us? First, we are reminded that we too have been invited to celebrate God’s “marriage” with humankind in the person of Jesus Christ, truly God and truly human. The puzzling incident of the man who shows up without a wedding garment signals that our lives are a preparation for this final celebration, and that we are to arrive there having put on Christ in Baptism and grown into that garment.
How does the garment of Christ fit today?READ MORE
The poet-prophet Isaiah uses the imagery of a vineyard and its owner to tell the sad story of the relationship between God and Israel, whom God has called into a covenant relationship. God's loving care for Israel is imaged in all the owner does to ensure that the vineyard bears fruit, but then only result is a crop of wild grapes. Isaiah hands down a verdict of divine judgment of Israel. Jesus also used the image of the vineyard, but is becomes a parable of judgment on the chief priests and elders who have refused to honor the prophets God has sent, including God's own Son, Jesus. Such failure in leadership will lead to God entrusting the vineyard (God's people) to more trustworthy caretakers. We too can hear in these readings a call to take to heart God's desire that the people bear fruit, thereby giving God glory. Such fruit Saint Paul identifies as bringing God's justice, peace, beauty, and grace into the world, especially through faithful service on the part of all in positions of leadership in the church society.
How do you answer this call to produce fruit?READ MORE
Notice that Jesus is addressing the religious leaders in today’s Gospel, those who made a display of their dedication to keeping God’s law. In response, Jesus presents a simple parable in which a father asks his two sons to work in his field. A spoken “No” from one becomes an enacted “Yes.” With the other, the opposite happens: “Yes” in word becomes “No” in deed. Jesus then asks, Which son did his father’s will? The answer condemns the leaders, because they have been rejecting Jesus’ outreach to sinners and thus hindering him from doing his Father’s will. Doing God’s will is what matters. Ezekiel is making the same point when he says that turning from wickedness brings life to a sinner. This conversion is doing God’s will. Saint Paul uses an early Christian hymn to call the Philippians to have the same mind that was in Christ, the obedient Son of God. Through his self-emptying, Jesus humbly served the Father’s will, becoming obedient even until death on a cross. As Saint Paul says elsewhere, Jesus was not “Yes and No” but in him it is always “Yes” (cf. Corinthians 1:19).
What is God asking of you? Are you always “Yes”?READ MORE
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