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
Jesus presents us with more parables in today’s Gospel from St. Matthew. He opens the first one with “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”READ MORE
Today’s readings remind us of the fact that it is God who guides us, and it is God who influences our decisions through the Holy Spirit. Today’s Gospel is again a series of parables shared by our Lord Jesus to teach us and to explain Holy Scripture.
Jesus tells the Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat, which is relatively clear to us in terms of the facts. However, there is an important point within it that we must acknowledge. When the decision is made to allow the weeds to grow with the wheat, it is clear the separation will occur later, not at that moment. When the decision is made as to what will be harvested and kept and what will be destroyed, that is a decision made by God.
It is somewhat a reflection of another point made in scripture. Today’s Gospel comes to us from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 13; however, in just a few chapters prior to that (Chapter 7) we are told “Stop judging, that you may not be judged…for as you judge, so will you be judged.” There is no question that there are “weeds” among the flock, but it is not our place to identify them and sort them out. That is the work of God.
As Catholics and Christians we must take care not to be self-righteous and judgmental. Before we call into question someone else’s walk with God, we need to scrutinize and take care of our own. Stewardship is what we do, not what we necessarily think others should do.
In today’s Gospel Reading from St. Matthew, Christ is asked why He speaks in parables. His response in part is the statement, “To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Christ’s parables, of which there are many, may not always make sense to us, unless we consider them carefully. Christ’s speaking in and relating to parables has everything to do with what we call The Word. If we listen conscientiously to the Word (represented by our readings at Masses and to the homily we hear), we may, and perhaps even should grasp the meaning. The Word is filled with the deeper truths of the Bible. God opens our eyes and ears to these truths, but we must be amenable to them and must be willing to try to understand them. Too often we merely listen and do not hear. We go through the motions when our total concentration should be on what we are being told. First of all, we need to appreciate that only God can open the eyes and ears of each of us.
One of the popular phrases about stewardship is “an attitude of gratitude.” That is so important. On a bad day, even the most hardened of us can find one thing for which to be grateful, and that can adjust everything in our thought processes. Are we closed off to the teachings of Jesus? If we open our minds and concentrate, the Lord’s teachings may unfold to us like nothing we have ever experienced previously.
Does the Holy Spirit dwell within you? If you are a baptized and confirmed Catholic the answer is a resounding “yes.” However, a better question might be “Is the Holy Spirit alive within you?” We are all gifted with the Holy Spirit, but how we respond to that gift varies immensely from one person to another.
St. Paul says as much in the Second Reading from his letter to the Romans. Paul says, “Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, (He) will give life to your mortal bodies also.” This produces a number of other questions for us as Catholics.
Given that the Spirit is within us, but does the Spirit guide us to Jesus? Are we prepared to be more like Jesus? Are we willing to be His disciple? And especially, Is the Spirit working in our hearts? It is there for each of us, to strengthen us and fortify us and to be with us always. However, we have to accept and embrace that fact. Living a life of stewardship is one of the ways we can do that. As our Bishops have told us in their pastoral letter on stewardship, “Stewardship is how you respond to Jesus’ call to discipleship and holiness.”
It is a challenge for sure, but it is within the grasp and the capability of each of us. We may have to work at it, but if we trust in God it is most definitely possible.