"He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end." This is what we state as our belief, one of the mysteries of our faith to which we give our hearts. We hear God speaking of this through the prophet Ezekiel: "I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats" (34:17). Saint Paul shares his vision of the Second Coming, when Christ hands over all things to his God and Father, death having been destroyed and God finally becoming all in all. Only Matthew describes the scene of the Last Judgment in his Gospel, when our eternal future will depend on how we have cared for others, especially the most vulnerable and most needy: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned. Our judgment then will depend on our mercy now.
If the Last Judgment were to happen today, what verdict would I receive?READ MORE
Live in the now! Be present to the present! Saint Paul sums it up: “All of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness...Stay alert and sober” (1Thessalonians 5:5, 6). Faith empowers us to share the light given at Baptism and strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation. Like the strong woman held up at the close of the book of Proverbs whose value is far beyond pearls, let us find our wisdom flowing from a fitting fear of and reverence for the Lord. This week’s parable of the talents distributed among three servants is not to be understood simply in terms of human abilities and gifts we have received, but more fittingly considered as the invaluable distribution of the riches of the gospel in each of our lives. These riches are to be invested in life and in our world for the benefit of all, especially the poor and vulnerable, not hidden away for safekeeping. Let us be good stewards of what has been placed in our care.
How are you investing the gospel so as to be able to make a return to the Lord when you are called upon on the last day?READ MORE
The virtue of wisdom is highly regarded in the Bible. Wisdom is imaged as a woman in today’s first reading, “resplendent and unfading” in the beauty and gifts she brings to those who seek her (6:12). Indeed, she seeks those worthy of her and graciously appears to them. Wisdom prepares us to be watchful and ready for the One who comes at an unexpected hour. Both Saint Paul in the letter to the Thessalonians and Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins call us to trust in the promises of God’s word that Christ will return. Saint Paul supports the Thessalonians who are grieving over the loss of their loved ones, reminding them that they are called to live in hope because Jesus will bring those who have died to life again with him. In the meantime, let us keep a supply of the oil of good works in readiness to greet the Beloved when he comes to take us into the kingdom. To be wise is to be ready for a future life with the Lord.
What are you pursuing in your life? Is it the wisdom of God?READ MORE
God sets high standards for the religious leaders of Israel in the Old Testament. The prophet Malachi (whose name means "messenger") delivers a threatening command to the priests in our first reading. Not only had they turned aside from the Law of Moses, but they were leading the people astray. Jesus makes a similar critique, speaking to his disciples and the crowd telling them to listen to the scribes and the Pharisees, but not to imitate them. Both groups talked a good game but did not follow through in practice. They wanted applause and special recognition, but were not willing to serve the people with humility. Even worse, their teaching laid burdens on them. Notice the difference between these two groups and Saint Paul's tender attitude and affectionate behavior described in his first Letter to the Thessalonians. No wonder this community received his preaching not simply as "a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe" (2:13). Good leaders are humble servants.
What has been your experience of church leaders? Do you pray for your bishop, priests, deacons, and teachers of religion?READ MORE
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