November 22 - The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King (Thirty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time), Cycle A

November 19th, 2020

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First Reading  Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17
God himself will shepherd the people of Israel.

 

Responsorial Psalm   Psalm 23:1-2,2-3,5-6
The Lord is our shepherd.

 

Second Reading  Corinthians 15:20-26,28
Because Christ has been raised from the dead, all those who have died will also be raised.

 

Gospel Reading
Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus teaches that when the Son of Man comes in glory, he will judge the nations, separating the sheep from the goats.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s Gospel passage is the conclusion of Jesus’ discourse with his disciples. It is about the end of time, the coming of the Son of Man, and the final judgment. We hear this description of the final judgment at the conclusion of our liturgical year, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King. In the context of Matthew’s Gospel, this passage might also be read as a conclusion of Matthew’s report on Jesus’ life and ministry; the remaining chapters report the events of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes to his disciples the scene of the judgment of the Son of Man. All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate them as a shepherd separates sheep and goats upon their return from the pasture. The judgments made by the Son of Man will be based upon the acts of mercy shown to the least ones—the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned. Indeed, Jesus, who suffered on the Cross, identifies himself with the least ones.

Recall that last week’s parable of the talents taught us that the gifts that we have been given are intended to be used for the service of others, especially the least among us. Our judgment before God will be based not only on how we have used these gifts and talents, but also on how we have extended ourselves in service to these least ones. Indeed, Jesus tells us that whenever we have served these least ones, we have served Christ himself.

When we read today’s Gospel in the context of the chapters that follow in Matthew’s Gospel, we learn the extent to which Jesus identifies with the least ones. In accepting death on the cross, Jesus shows himself to be one of the hungry, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned. To accept Jesus is to accept him who suffered and died on the Cross as one of the least ones.

November 15 - Thirty Third Sunday in ordinary time Year : A

November 12th, 2020

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First Reading Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31
The virtues of a good wife are extolled.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 128:1-2,3,4-5
Blessed are those who walk in God’s ways.

Second Reading  1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Paul warns the Thessalonians to stay alert because the day of the Lord cannot be predicted.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 25:14-30
Jesus tells the parable of the talents, in which he teaches about the importance of using the gifts that God has given to us in service to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Background on the Gospel Reading

This week’s Gospel speaks of how Jesus’ disciples are to conduct themselves as they await the Kingdom of Heaven. In the preceding passages and in last week’s Gospel, Jesus taught that there is no way to predict the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. His disciples must, therefore, remain vigilant and ready to receive the Son of Man at any time.

Jesus’ parable talks about Christian discipleship using economic metaphors. Before he leaves on a journey, the master entrusts to his servants a different number of talents, giving to each according to their abilities. A talent is a coin of great value. Upon the master’s return, he finds that the first and second servants have doubled their money, and both are rewarded. The third servant, however, has only preserved what was given to him because he was afraid to lose the money. He has risked nothing; he did not even deposit the money in a bank to earn interest. This servant is punished by the master, and his talent is given to the one who brought the greatest return.

Read in light of last week’s parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, this parable teaches that God’s judgment will be based on the service we render to God and to one another in accordance with the gifts that God has given to us. Our gifts, or talents, are given to us for the service of others. If we fail to use these gifts, God’s judgment on us will be severe. On the other hand, if we make use of these gifts in service to the Kingdom of Heaven, we will be rewarded and entrusted with even more responsibilities.

This Gospel reminds us that Christian spirituality is not passive or inactive. Our life of prayer helps us to discern the gifts that have been given to us by God. This prayer and discernment ought to lead us to use our gifts in the service of God and our neighbor. God’s grace allows us to share in the work of serving the Kingdom of Heaven.

November 8 - Thirty Second Sunday in ordinary time Year : A

November 7th, 2020

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First Reading  Wisdom 6:12-16
Wisdom will come to those who seek it.

Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 63:2,3-4,5-6,7-8
Our souls are thirsting for God.

Second Reading  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
(shorter form: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)
God will raise all those who have died.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus tells the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, teaching his disciples the importance of being prepared to receive the Kingdom of Heaven.

Background on the Gospel Reading

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus talks about what it means to be prepared to receive the Kingdom of Heaven. This week’s reading follows a series of warnings and predictions by Jesus about the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus wants his disciples to understand that the exact day and time cannot be predicted. He teaches the disciples that they must remain vigilant so that they will not be caught unprepared.

When thinking about the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, it is important to consider the first-century wedding traditions of Palestine. Scholars tell us that it was the custom of the day for young maidens—friends and family members of the bride—to meet the bridegroom when he came to bring his bride to her new home.

As with many of Jesus’ parables, several levels of interpretation are possible. In last week’s Gospel, we heard Jesus warn against following the example of the Pharisees and scribes. If read in the context of early Christianity’s struggle to define itself against Pharisaic Judaism, this parable is a continuing critique of Judaism. It suggests that the Jewish leaders were like the foolish virgins, unprepared to meet Jesus, the bridegroom of Israel.

In the chapter preceding this parable, however, Jesus warns about the destruction of Jerusalem, the tribulation of the end times, and the coming of the Son of Man. When read in this context, today’s parable is a warning to the Christian community to remain vigilant and prepared to receive Jesus, the Son of Man who will return at the end of time. This interpretation is supported by the reference to the delay of the bridegroom. The Christian community for whom Matthew wrote this Gospel was coming to terms with the realization that the promise of Jesus’ return would not be fulfilled within their lifetimes. The question remains for us to ask ourselves, Are we ready to receive Jesus? Will we be prepared to receive him?

November 1 - All Saints Day 2020

October 31st, 2020

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First Reading  Revelation 7:2-4,9-14
John describes his vision: those who have endured the trials worship the Lamb.

Responsorial Psalm   Psalm 24:1-2,3-4,5-6
Those who seek the face of the Lord shall be rewarded.

Second Reading   1 John 3:1-3
We are God's children now.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 5:1-12
Jesus teaches what it means to be happy.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Every year the Church recalls the example, witness, and prayer of the holy women and men who have been identified by the Church as Saints. These saints are more than just role models; they are family members with whom we continue to share relation, in a bond of prayer, called the Communion of Saints. Every year when we celebrate this day, the Gospel we proclaim recalls for us Jesus' teaching about happiness, the Beatitudes. We quickly note in this reading that none of those Jesus names as “blessed” or “happy” are expected . . . the poor in spirit, the meek, the persecuted. Jesus' blueprint for happiness reflects little of what the world might call happiness.

What does Jesus mean when he uses the word “blessed?” This word is sometimes translated as “happy” or “fortunate” or “favored.” In other words, Jesus is saying that divine favor is upon those who are poor, who mourn, who are persecuted. This might have been welcome and surprising news to the crowds who heard Jesus that day.

The Beatitudes can be understood as a framework for Christian living. Because of this, it is natural that we proclaim this Gospel on the Feast of All Saints. Saints are people who lived the spirit of the Beatitudes as Jesus lived. On this day, we too are challenged to model our lives on the spirit and promises of the Beatitudes.

October 25 -Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

October 22nd, 2020

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First Reading Exodus 22:20-26
The Lord teaches that compassion ought to be shown to the alien and to the poor.

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 18:2-4,47,51
The Lord is our strength.

Second Reading 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10
Paul tells the Thessalonians that their conversion to the Lord has been an example to all believers.

Gospel Reading Matthew 22:34-40
The Pharisees continue to test Jesus with a question about the greatest commandment.

Background on the Gospel Reading

This week’s Gospel follows close behind the Gospel read last Sunday. It is the last of three questions put to Jesus by Jewish religious leaders who are trying to trick him into saying something that might get him arrested. This reminds us that the context for today’s reading is the mounting tension between Jesus and the religious leaders in Jerusalem.

The Herodians and the Pharisees asked the first question, which was about taxes. The Sadducees asked the second question, which was about the Resurrection (see Matthew 22:22-33). The third question, considered in today’s Gospel, is asked by a Pharisee who asks Jesus about the greatest of the commandments.

The question requires Jesus to interpret the Law of Moses. The Mosaic Law consists of the Ten Commandments and many additional rules, numbering over six hundred. Adherence to the Mosaic Law, for a devout Jew, is an expression of faithfulness to God’s covenant with Israel. The ranking of the Commandments was regularly debated among the teachers of the Law.

Jesus answers the Pharisees’ question with a two-fold summary. Jesus says that all of the commandments can be summarized in two commandments: love God and love your neighbor. Both of these were central elements of the religious tradition Jesus learned from his Jewish community. Indeed these continue to be central aspects of contemporary Jewish religious understanding. Jesus’ response to his questioners proposed an integral connection between these two aspects of the Jewish Law. Love of God finds its expression in our love for our neighbor.

October 18 - Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary time Year A

October 14th, 2020

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First Reading 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.

Second Reading 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b
Paul greets the Thessalonians, recalling the Gospel they received.

Gospel Reading Matthew 22:15-21
The Pharisees send their disciples to test Jesus with a question about taxes.

Background on the Gospel Reading

In today’s Gospel Jesus and the religious leaders in Jerusalem continue their tense exchange of questions and challenges. At this point the disciples of the Pharisees, together with the Herodians, try to entrap Jesus by their question about the payment of taxes.

Matthew sets up an unusual partnership between the Pharisees and the Herodians. The Herodians were supporters of Herod Antipas, a Jewish political leader who collaborated with the Romans. Such collaboration would have required a compromised observance of the Mosaic Law. The Pharisees, on the other hand, taught scrupulous observance of the Mosaic Law and opposed Roman occupation. Herodians favored the payment of taxes; the Pharisees opposed it. The Herodians and the Pharisees approach Jesus, asking that he take sides in their dispute. If Jesus answers with the Pharisees, he shows himself to be an enemy of Rome. If he answers with the Herodians, he offends popular Jewish religious sensibilities.

Jesus’ response to this attempt to trap him exposes the guile of his questioners. From his first words to them, Jesus shows that he is very much aware of what they are trying to do. He asks to see a Roman coin, which is readily provided to him. It may have come from the hand of a Herodian, but the Pharisees show themselves to be quite willing to accept this compromise. Jesus has already exposed the Pharisees as hypocrites.

Jesus takes his response one step further. He asks that his questioners examine the coin. Agreeing that it is Caesar’s image on the coin, Jesus tells them that it must belong to Caesar. Avoiding the question of lawfulness altogether, Jesus answers their question with simple logic. Then, going further still, Jesus tells them that their obligation is to pay to God that which belongs to God.

Jesus’ response to the Herodians and Pharisees suggests the ethic that Christians ought to adopt. It reminds us of the importance of keeping things in their proper perspective. Do we attach ourselves to worldly things at the expense of the love and honor that we owe to God?

September 11 - Twenty Eighth Sunday In ordinary time Year A

October 9th, 2020

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First Reading Isaiah 25:6-10a
The Lord will provide richly for his people.

 

Responsorial Psalm Psalm 23:1-6
The Lord is our shepherd.

 

Second Reading  Philippians 4:12-14,19-20
Paul tells the Philippians that God provides whatever he needs.

Gospel Reading  Matthew 22:1-14 (shorter form Matthew 22:1-10)
Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Immediately after criticizing the religious leaders through the parable of the tenants in last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus proceeded to tell another parable, again directed at the religious leaders. We hear this parable in today’s Gospel.

In the parable of the wedding feast, Jesus offers an image of the kingdom of heaven using the symbol of a wedding banquet. In today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah and in today’s psalm, the Lord’s goodness is evident in the symbol of a feast of good food and wine. Jesus’ listeners would have been familiar with the image of a wedding feast as a symbol for God’s salvation. They would consider themselves to be the invited guests. Keeping this in mind helps us to understand the critique Jesus makes with this parable. The context for this parable is the growing tension between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem. This has been the case for the past two Sundays and will continue to be true for the next several weeks.

The parable Jesus tells is straightforward. The king dispatches his servants to invite the guests to the wedding feast that he is planning for his son. The listeners would have been surprised to learn that the first guests refused the invitation. Who would refuse the king’s invitation? A second dispatch of servants follows. Again to the listeners’ great surprise, some guests ignore the invitation. Some of the invited guests even go so far as to mistreat and kill the servants. The king invokes his retribution against these murderers by destroying them and burning their city.

We might stop here for a moment. Why would some guests kill the servants sent to invite them to the king’s wedding feast? It might be possible that the king was a tyrant, evidenced by the destruction of the city of those who refused his invitation. But if we follow this idea, then the allegory seems to be about something other than the kingdom of heaven. It is more likely that the destruction of the city would have been a powerful image corresponding to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70, which would have been an important event for Matthew’s audience.

With the invited guests now deemed unworthy to attend the king’s wedding feast, the servants are sent to invite whomever they can find. The guests arrive, but it appears that accepting the king’s invitation brings certain obligations. The guest who failed to dress in the appropriate wedding attire is cast out of the feast. We are reminded that while many are invited to the kingdom of heaven, not all are able to meet its requirements. God invites us to his feast, giving us his salvation. Yet he asks us to repent for our sins.

Jesus’ message in the parable cautions against exclusive beliefs about the kingdom of heaven. The parable also teaches about humility. Those who assume that they are the invited guests may find that they have refused the invitation, and so others are invited in their place. To accept the invitation is also to accept its obligations. God wants our full conversion in complete acceptance of his mercy.

September 04 - Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

October 9th, 2020

September 27 - Twenty Sixth Sunday in ordinary Time Year A

October 9th, 2020

September 20 - Twenty fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A : God’s generous mercy

September 20th, 2020

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First Reading  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.

 

Second Reading  Philippians 1:20c-24,27a
Paul tells the Philippians to live for Christ.

Gospel Reading  Matthew 20:1-16
In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, Jesus teaches about God's generous mercy.

Background on the Gospel Reading

In today's Gospel, Jesus moves from Galilee to teach in Judea where he is sought out by great crowds and tested by the Pharisees on issues such as marriage and divorce. Jesus also encounters a rich young man who is unable to accept Jesus' demand that he leave his possessions to follow him. Jesus' response to the rich young man sounds very much like the conclusion we will find in today's Gospel: the first will be last and the last will be first.

On the surface, the parable of the workers in the vineyard appears to be an offense to common sense. Those who work a longer day ought to be paid more than those who work just an hour or two. When viewed in this way, the landowner seems unfair. That is because we are reading into the parable our own preconceived notions of how fairness and equality should be quantified.

A close read shows us that the landowner paid on the terms that were negotiated. The landowner, it seems, has acted completely justly. The parable goes beyond that, however, and we come to see that the landowner is not simply just, he is exceptionally just. He is radically just. He has given those who labored in the field for a full day their due pay. But he has also given a full-day's wage to those who worked only a single hour. No one is cheated, but a few receive abundantly from the landowner just as we receive from God more than what is merely justifiable or due. God, like the landowner, is radically just and abundantly generous. The workers who complain are made to look foolish as they lament the fact that landowner has made all workers equal. Indeed, what more could one ask for than to be treated as an equal at work or anywhere else?

The parable reminds us that although God owes us nothing, 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.

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