In today’s Gospel Reading from St. Matthew, A lawyer among the Pharisees again tries to entrap Jesus by asking Him the question, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest.” Jesus’ response appears multiple times in Holy Scripture, as He says, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The Lord then adds another that He cites as almost equally important, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”READ MORE
The last line of today’s Gospel Reading from St. Matthew contains one of the more well known of Jesus’ quotes. When asked a bit of a trick question by the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Jesus responds by asking them whose image is on their Roman coins, to which they respond simply “Caesar’s.”
Jesus’ response to their reply is known to most of us, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” The Lord’s answer is far more perceptive than we might think, and it gives another message to us, one we must always remember. If we are followers of Christ, and if we work to be His disciple, the Lord might ask us, “Whose image is on your soul?” We have learned in the First Chapter of Genesis that God created us in His image.READ MORE
Today’s Gospel from the Book of Matthew again includes parables. We have been hearing the Lord share parables with us throughout our readings in recent weeks. Interestingly Matthew contains 23 parables (or teachings classified as parables), while Luke has 28. Mark has only nine, and John has none.
The first parable we hear today is called The Parable of the Wedding Feast. In this story shared by Jesus for our benefit, a king is hosting a wedding feast for his son. He sends out invitations and people ignore them or choose not to respond. It may seem somewhat remarkable to us that people turn down an invitation to a royal wedding feast.READ MORE
One of St. Paul’s favorite topics was prayer, and today’s reading from his letter to the Philippians is no exception to that. He says, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” For Paul all topics are appropriate for prayer because we need to share and consult with the Lord about everything.
God knows what is on our minds already, of course, but He also desires that we make a conscious effort to communicate with Him on these subjects. In addition, Paul points out that our prayers need to be infused with thanksgiving. We should not just petition the Lord and make requests. It is equally important that we think about, identify, and acknowledge our blessings.READ MORE
St. Paul offers a formula for living the way we are supposed to live as Christians in the Second Reading. Paul writes, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.” Doing that is a challenge for most all of us. Yet, that is one of the secrets to being a good steward and living as Christ wants us to live.
To truly live that way requires a dramatic conversion. All of us know people who are so self-centered that they often are not even aware that they are totally unwilling to compromise or to even recognize the value of those around them. Achieving this kind of self-awareness, of what kind of a person we are, is a significant step on our faith and life journeys.
Screenwriter and playwright William Nicholson once wrote, “God does not necessarily want us to be happy. He wants us to be lovable, worthy of love, able to be loved by Him. What makes people hard to love? It is called selfishness. Selfish people are hard to love because so little love comes out of them.”
That is our challenge, to love others in such a way that we become lovable as well. Christ told us over and over that the secret to being His disciple and the secret to being a good steward is to
“Love your neighbor.” That is how to be the kind of person Paul calls us to be as well.
In our First Reading from the Book of Isaiah, God reminds us that He does not think in the same way that we do. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts.” That is quite clear in our Gospel today from Matthew, which relates the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.
In the Gospel parable, God (who is represented by the landowner ) does something which from our human perspective may seem unfair and unjust. What we must keep in mind is that the landowner did not treat anyone unfairly. He may have seemed more generous to some than to others, but again that is from our perspective.
We can be absolutely certain that God will never be unfair to us. The Lord may bestow greater blessings on others, some of whom again from our perspective may seem less deserving. God is a righteous God. Through stewardship, we acknowledge that everything comes to us from God. All our blessings may seem to be more or less than we deserve, but if we are grateful for what we have and what we are, we will then recognize God’s generosity and His grace.
The important thing to us should not be and cannot be whether we are first or last. What is central is that we are part of the Kingdom of God. That should be sufficient for us. We get into trouble when we conclude that God should think the way we do
The theme throughout today’s readings from Holy Scripture has to do with forgiveness. We must always appreciate that forgiveness is a two way street. We need to seek forgiveness as all of us are likely to do. However, forgiveness is also something we need to grant to others.
Some scholars consider Matthew’s Chapter 18 from where our Gospel Reading comes today as perhaps among His most personal teachings to His disciples and others as spiritual leaders. There is no question that the Lord is in the process of preparing His followers for the time when they (we) must continue His Kingdom without His physical presence. He is trying to build up the sense of fellowship and cohesion among His flock.READ MORE
St. Paul echoes Christ in many ways. In the 13th Chapter from his letter to the Romans, he continues with his thoughts on how we should live to please God, and he uses a sentence which Christ often repeated. After listing several of the 10 Commandments, Paul states, “…whatever other commandments there may be, are summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.”
There is always much that gets debated in that admonition, such as loving yourself, and who exactly is your neighbor? Paul’s point, like that of Jesus, is simply that we are called to treat others as we may like to be treated. We need to show them the respect and caring that we may hope for and wish for. God loves us, and if we realize that, we may ultimately come to the conclusion that we are loveable.
Most of us know someone whose love is evident by how they treat others and how they live. Loving neighbor is a visible expression of everything that Jesus taught. It is a way of expressing the depth of our faith and our belief that we are Disciples of Christ.
St. Francis de Sales captured all about what this love is and who is your neighbor when he wrote, “Examine your heart often to see if it is such toward your neighbor as you would like his or hers to be toward you in his or her place. This is the touchstone of true reason.” It is relatively basic and simple — our neighbor is everyone with whom we have contact and love is what makes it all work.
Our Second Reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans is quite short, but as is ever the case with Holy Scripture it contains a central message which is quite important to us. One of the ongoing challenges of being Catholic and Christian in today’s society is that society, cultural norms, sometimes seem to work against our efforts to live as followers and disciples of Christ.
Paul sums up that struggle succinctly as he says, “Do not conform yourselves to this age, 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.” Paul offers two suggestions in terms of combating the temptation to conform and agree.READ MORE
"You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church." The name Peter is significant. It comes from a word that means "rock." When Jesus gives this new name to Simon, he is identifying this chosen Apostle as a foundation upon which his church will stand. This verse, along with the constant practice of church tradition ever since that moment, explains the office of the papacy. The pope, even to this day, is a direct successor of Saint Peter. An unbroken historical line traces right back to Christ himself when he gave "the keys to the kingdom of heaven" to Peter.
In establishing Peter as the first pope, Jesus was putting a structure in place that has proved to be a brilliant one. Because it is built on a firm foundation, the Catholic Church has been able to persevere for millennia through schisms, wars, scandals, and the persistent presence of sin in its all-too-human members. The church has maintained consistency and unity in her teaching thanks to the headship of the pope. It really is remarkable that an institution so old can still be so vital in this day and age. Thus far, the prophetic utterance of Christ remains true, "the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it." Jesus must have been thinking of us, of all future Christians, when he established the papacy. Just as Jesus instructed Peter after the Resurrection to "Feed my lambs...feed my sheep," (Jn 21:15, 17), so too our Holy Father continues the mission to care for us like a good shepherd. We may be thousands of miles from him, but his prayers and his leadership serve our local Catholic community nonetheless. The pope's care for us will always be a reminder of the loving concern of Christ for his church.
Today’s Gospel from the Book of Matthew describes what occurred in Tyre and Sidon when Jesus cured the daughter of a Gentile woman. Tyre and Sidon were Gentile cities. The Apostles faithfully followed the Lord wherever He went, just as we are called to do.
There was only one reason that the Lord made this trip (on foot, of course, as that was the only alternative at that time), and that was to cure the daughter of the Gentile woman. Making an effort like that is a sign of Christ’s love and His understanding of a need. He was also trying to teach His followers, which includes us, how important each individual and her or his faith is.READ MORE
In today’s Gospel from the Book of Matthew, we hear the remarkable story of Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee. St. Peter reflects his faith in the Lord when he says, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus says simply, “Come.” We do not know if Peter stepped into the water or jumped and it does not matter. His faith and trust in the Lord allows Peter, too, to begin to walk on the water. Clearly when Peter’s focus is on Christ, he is able to accomplish this.READ MORE
There are times in our lives that we get the chance to see a glimpse of heaven. It may be through the love of another, loved one or stranger. Sometimes it may even be an event that seems unexplainable, perhaps even supernatural. These occurrences may be the answer to prayer or they may surprise us by coming out of nowhere. But no matter their nature or origin, they give us hope and strength to carry on through life.READ MORE