OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Gospel
Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Giving God His Due
Two brothers went treat-or-tricking and collected some eggs. The elder said to his younger brother, “I will give you one dollar if you let me break three eggs on your head.” The little boy knew it was going to be a painful experience, but because he needed the dollar he agreed. The bigger boy then went on to break an egg on his brother’s head. His brother took it with an “Ouch!” Then he broke the second egg on his little brother’s head. This time it really hurt and his little brother cried out in pain. But the young lad was determined to get his dollar. So he braced himself for the third and last egg, but his senior brother walked away laughing. “Come on, bring on the third egg,” said the little boy. “Nope!” said the bigger brother, “I don’t wanna lose my dollar.”
One could dismiss the story as kids playing pranks, but there is something more serious going on here. It is called breach of contract. We are talking about the sense of responsibility, the recognition that every privilege we enjoy comes with a price tag. Like the big brother in our story, some people go about trying to take advantage of others, of the society, and even of God. We see that in the parable of the rebellious farm managers in today’s gospel, who enjoy the benefits that accrue to them as managers but withhold the benefits that should go to the landowner. Think of the story that was in the media some time back about some Nigerian women who seized the facilities of an oil drilling company complaining that these companies enrich themselves from their land but are loathe to give back anything to the owners of the land. Today’s gospel calls for responsibility and accountability in our dealings with God, which include our dealings with our fellow human beings.
Jesus directed the parable at the Jewish leadership of his day. The parable has a lot to teach us about stewardship. As such it has very important lessons for church leaders in particular but also for all of God’s people in general. We all have at least received life from God. Life is given to us in trust. We are expected to cultivate and manage this life in such a way that it bears good fruit – fruit that we can present to God the owner of our lives on the day of reckoning.
The parable teaches us a lot about God and how God relates to us. First we see the PROVIDENCE of God. “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower”(Matthew 21:33a). Before God entrusts a responsibility to you, He makes provision for all that you will need in carrying out the responsibility. “Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country” (verse 33b). This shows God’s TRUST in us. God does not stand looking over our shoulders, policing us to make sure we do the right thing. God leaves the job to us and goes on vacation to a far country. God trusts that we will do the right thing. Unfortunately many of us don’t. The story also highlights God’s PATIENCE with us. God sends messenger after messenger to the rebellious managers who would not render to God what is His due. With each messenger, God provides another chance for us to put an end to rebellion and do the right thing. Finally there comes a last chance. God plays His trump card and sends His only son. If we miss this last chance, then we’ve missed it. In the end we see God’s JUDGMENT in which rebellious humanity lose their very lives and their privileges are transferred to others who are more promising. The picture is that of a providing, trusting, patient, but also just God.
From this we can learn a lot about ourselves and how we stand in relation to God. First we see human PRIVILEGE. Like the managers of the vineyard, everything we have is a privilege and not a merit. This is what we mean when we say that everything is God’s grace. Grace is unmerited favour. Another word for this is privilege. Life itself is a privilege which can be taken away from any of us at any time. Privilege comes, however, with RESPONSIBILITY. We are ultimately responsible and accountable to God for the way we use or abuse our God-given privileges. God has given us all we need to make a judicious use of all our privileges, yet we retain the ability to abuse it. This is called FREEDOM. The Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen, as it is called, is a parable on the misuse of human freedom. Let us today pray for the wisdom and the courage never to abuse our privileges but rather to make a good use of all the privileges and opportunities that God gives us.
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Epistle
Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Why Worry When You Can Pray?
The story is told of one of Napoleon’s generals, Massena, who with his army of 18,000 soldiers besieged an Austrian town that had no defences whatsoever. The town council met to discuss how to surrender. Just then an elderly man, the dean of the town church, reminded the council that it was Easter and suggested that they hold the usual Easter services and put the problem in God’s hands. The council took his advice, went to the church and rang the church bell to assemble the townsfolk for worship. Napoleon’s forces heard the joyful ringing of the bells and concluded that the Austrian forces had arrived to rescue the town. Immediately, they broke camp and beat a retreat, and the town was saved.
This story illustrates what Paul is saying in today’s second reading from the Letter to the Philippians. Faith in Christ affects how we face the problems of life. Whereas people who have no faith usually respond to life’s problems with worry, people of faith respond to life’s problems with prayer. As we can see in the story of the Austrian town, worry only makes us to surrender in weakness to the challenges facing us. In prayer, on the other hand, we raise our hands to our all-loving and all-powerful Father, who is able to draw us out of the pit into which we have sunk, even if it should take a miracle to do so.
And so Paul enjoins us: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”(Philippians 4:6). First Paul reminds us that prayer is not simply reading a shopping list of our needs before God. It also includes thanking God for the blessing of life and faith that we enjoy already (“thanksgiving”) and lifting up before God all other people and their needs (“supplication”). Much of what passes for Christian prayer is too self-centred. But Christian prayer should be God-centred, just as Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s prayer. From that prayer we learn the fours components or ACTS of Christian prayer. Christian prayers is made up of A-C-T-S. “A” is for Adoration, in which we praise God for His goodness. “C” is for Contrition, in which we ask forgiveness for our failures. “T” is for Thanksgiving, in which we thank God for blessings received. And “S” is for Supplication, in which we ask God for our needs and the needs of all of God’s people.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (verse 7).This is what happens when we learn to take all our problems to the Lord in prayer. We trade our stress and worry for peace of mind. Someone had said, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety” (George Mueller).
“Beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (verse 8). The second thing Paul teaches us in this passage is that prayer is more than just praying. Prayer is not just what we do on our knees. It also includes what we think about all day long. Prayer includes what Norman Vincent Peale calls “positive thinking.” A person of prayer is a person who thinks always of what is true, honourable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. Paul does not ask us to spend our days thinking about our sins, our failures or what is wrong with the world, as some of us tend to do.
“Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you” (verse 9). Finally, prayer involves action. A person of prayer should be a person of action. The formula, as the saints tell us, is to pray fervently as if everything depends on God, and then to act decisively as if everything depends on us. The key to finding peace in a world of stress and distress is not worry but prayer, thinking positively, and doing what is right We start here now in church with prayer, we leave church and continue with positive thoughts, and we follow it up with doing the right thing. That way, the peace of God will be with us.
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A
Homily # 1
I’m mad, fighting mad! There was the devastation in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. You can’t do anything to prevent hurricanes. Yet, people responsible for the safety of the citizens of the city of New Orleans on the national, state, and local levels have known for years that the levees that held back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River were not built to withstand a major hurricane like Katrina, but no one did anything about it. I’m mad because our armed forces are dying in Iraq in a war that we have no clear way to get out of. I’m mad because gasoline prices and medicine prices continue to rise cutting into my fixed income so I have to give up driving, give up medicine, or give up food. Yes, I think I have plenty of reasons to be angry.
In the midst of so many causes for anger in out society it’s good to hear that God gets mad too. The prophet Isaiah told the people of Judah in his time that God was angry that after planting and tending them like a choice vineyard the people had rebelled and not obeyed his laws. He told them that he was going to express his anger by taking away his protection and leaving them to the thorns, the briars, and the drought. Jesus told the people of his time that, because they did not accept him as God’s son, God would take his promised kingdom away from them and give it to another people. It’s satisfying to know that God can be angry too.
What puzzles me is the response from Psalm 80. The psalmist recognizes the results of God’s anger, that He has broken down the walls of his vineyard to let every passerby, every beast of the field devour its fruits. This psalm refers to the devastation that the people of Judah experienced when forces from Babylon captured and laid waste to Jerusalem. Yet, the psalm writer does not despair. He continues to pray that in the future God will protect the vine he has planted, the human race that he has strengthened. When someone explodes at me I clear out until the dust settles. Isn’t that one reason we give vent to our anger – to clear away all opposition?
As I thought about this some more I began to recognize a difference between God’s anger and ours. God doesn’t rage on to blow people away. Remember the reading last week from the Letter to the Philippians. It reminded us that the Son of God did not grasp at being equal to God. He emptied himself to come to us in human likeness. God’s anger leads not to separation from the divine presence, but to closer encounter with him. It was in captivity in Babylon that the Jewish people as we know them were formed, a people known for their determination to remain faithful to God’s law. It was this determination that led some of the Jewish leaders of Christ’s time to misinterpret his message and seek his death. Still Jesus did not turn his back on his people, but died for them. Eventually many Jews and many gentiles believed in Jesus and became part of the garden that is the Kingdom of God.
Today’s reading from the Letter to the Philippians tells us what we must do when it seems that God is angry with us. We must remember that God’s anger, like that of a good parent, is not meant to turn us away, but to turn our attention to the divine will for us. If we recognize God speaking to us in all circumstances, good and bad, we can live without anxiety making our requests known to God in good times and bad.
Clearly there is much to be angry about in our present culture and what we are angry about will depend in part on our political and religious foundations. For many in our country the decision of our Supreme Court a generation ago not to recognize the right to life of the unborn is a source of deep indignation and anger. For others the diminished commitment of our nation to care for the poor in our midst is a cause for anguish and anger. The teaching of our Church about justice says that our concern and anger about both these issues is justified. The question for us is what should be our response to the anger we feel? The final line of today’s gospel gives us a hint as to what the answer to that question may be: “…the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” We hear St. Matthew’s final answer about what will gain us admittance to the kingdom of God in the last reading from his gospel this year on the feast of Christ the King. All the nations are gathered before the Son of Man for final judgment. Those to enter the kingdom, the sheep, are on the right; those to go to eternal punishment, the goats, are on the left. The sheep are those who recognized Christ in the hungry, the thirsty, strangers, the naked, the ill, and the imprisoned.
The response to the tragic plight of the victims of Hurricane Katrina is evidence to me that that there is reason for hope in our nation in spite of the many issues that we have to be angry about. I was deeply moved when the governor of Texas opened not only the Astrodome, but also the schools of his state to refugees from the hurricane. The weekend after the disaster the National Conference of Catholic Bishops appealed for assistance for the area affected by the storm. Many individuals made their own homes available to those left homeless. Others loaded cars and vans with water, food, and clothing and drove to the afflicted areas to deliver what was needed. Nations that we have aided in the past offered what they could. These are certainly examples of what Paul was speaking about when he wrote to the Philippians: whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious – think about these things.
It is easy to be angry. Christ calls us to follow his example in doing what we can to meet the needs of others that give us reason for anger.
Homily # 2
Jesus, in today’s Gospel, tells the chief priests and elders a parable taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, which was our first reading. It is a rather obvious reference to the Jewish people, which his audience fully understood. He refers to the numerous times, since the very first covenant between God and Abraham that the Chosen people have turned away from God to sin. Moses and all the Prophets time after time called the Jewish nation back to God, called on them to repent and mend their ways. But again and again, they fell back into their sinful ways. Then God, just like the owner of the vineyard, sent his Son, Jesus, hoping that they would “respect my son.” But Jesus knows that he will suffer the same fate as the son of the vineyard owner – death.
Jesus then asks them what they think will happen to the murderers. They give the right answer – “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death.” But they still don’t get it. They are the wretched men. They are the ones who are rejecting the Son of God. Jesus says, “Didn’t you ever read scripture?” “Don’t you get it?” Jesus is the cornerstone being rejected by the builders, the Chosen people of the House of Israel. He concludes by telling them that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from the House of Israel and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
That’s us! By our Baptism into Christ we have become the Chosen people, the People of God. Jesus created a new covenant between humanity and God through himself. By our Baptism we become sons and daughters of God, sisters and brothers of Jesus and heirs to the Kingdom of God. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God calls all people to Himself. He pours out His love and favor on all. All that He asks in return is that we open our hearts to receive that Divine love and grace.
Notice though, that Jesus tells the chief priests and elders that while the Kingdom will be given to another people, it is a people who will produce the fruit of that Kingdom. This is not a gift without responsibility and response on our part. Jesus calls us to make the Kingdom come here and now. As followers of Christ and people of the New Covenant, we have a responsibility to make Christ present in our world. The fruit of the Kingdom is, as Jesus commanded us, to love God totally and our neighbor as ourselves. But, just like the Jewish people, we too fall over and over again into sin. Through the merits of his death and resurrection, over and over again he forgives us and calls us back to Him. He calls us to bear the fruit of the Kingdom.
We live in a world of violence, hatred, prejudice and bigotry. We see all around us suffering and want. We see injustice and poverty, lack of hope in a better future for so many. What are we, as followers of Christ, doing about it. Next month we will elect many individuals to public office. Every member of the House and one-third of the Senate will stand for election. Many governors and state legislators and huge numbers of local officials will be elected. Will we take the time to vote? Will we take the time to know what these individuals stand for? How do the members of Congress stand on war with Iraq, on abortion, human cloning, human rights, the death penalty? Do we know what the teachings of the Church are on these and other important issues? If we don’t, how can we be producing the fruit of the Kingdom of God as we are challenged to do?
St. Paul, in the second reading, tells us to keep on doing what we have learned and received and heard and seen. We know what should be done. If we don’t, then we better find out! This is what God expects of each one of us. God gave each and every one of us specific talents and He expects us to use them for the good of all. Each one of us was put on this Earth by God for a reason. We need to discern what that reason is and then do it, use those talents. If we do, St. Paul assures us, “The God of peace will be with you.”
This week as we go about our daily tasks, let’s keep in our mind the words of the Alleluia verse sung before the proclamation of the Gospel today. “I have chosen you from the world, says the Lord, to go and bear fruit that will remain”.
Homily # 3
Who here has not been affected in some way by the increasing threats of danger almost constantly pointed in our direction during the last year? It has not mattered whether we turned on the television or radio, whether we picked up a newspaper or magazine, all of them seem bent on increasing our anxiety level. All seemed intent on bringing us to accept that it was only security measures which would reduce our anxiety. Yet, despite all of the words and actions echoing around us we do not know if the threats are for real or not. So should we be anxious or not? We certainly have no idea if the security measures will bring about any less anxiety, because many of them pit us against one another, making us trusting no one who looks different from ourselves. We have also often heard our government threaten others, bringing an increasing level of anxiety to people in other lands, too. Our world seems bent on raising anxiety to as high a level as it can, almost in hope of pushing us to react for some bit of security, albeit unreal.
On the other hand, today we read from Paul’s letter to the Philippians that we are to have no anxiety at all. Sure, no anxiety, no fear! Where have these words been the last 12 months? Paul has not seen our evening news lately. So, would he still write this? I believe the answer is yes and probably with more emphasis and urgency.
I am not sure we can achieve Paul’s sense of internal peace now. Somehow, we must struggle with the fact that the Lord tells us fear is useless, that we need to trust, even while all around us move to higher levels of anxiety. So, how can we come to be without fear? Paul tells us that prayer and petition to God will help us achieve internal peace. He does not say the reason for the anxiety will go away, but that we can come to live with it all around us through prayer and attitude. This is important, for anxiety and fear push us further into ourselves, further into our own safety net, often making us more likely to lash out. We need the peace, we need lower anxiety levels if we are to value life in ourselves and others.
Paul borrows from the Greek wisdom of his time. He borrows some common sense virtues which help us to know peace and lower anxiety. They give us both specific and general clues of how to live. His list says to think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and worthy of praise. Just reading the list almost draws one to peace. These values are inherent values for all people.
On this Celebrating Life Sunday I want to take the common wisdom of ancient days and use it to talk about humanity today, about the beauty of all life. Might Paul have said the following? We are called to know it is true that from conception the infant is fully human. It is honorable to bring children into the world even in anxious times. It is just to treat every child well. It is pure to treat every human well for all the years of any person’s life, even the sickly last years or months. It is lovely to war against no innocent persons, perhaps especially those who would be destroyed in nuclear wars or who are today maimed by land mines of recent conflicts. It is gracious to treat even murderers with mercy. It is excellent and worthy of praise to value all of life. In being true and honorable and just and all the other sensible virtues of the stoics of long ago, we can find ourselves being a People of Life and a People for Life.
May we have learned from our anxiety that it is harmful not only to us, but to how we value or devalue others. We may, indeed be tired of living as anxious people, wanting to be free from “undue anxiety” as we are reminded in the prayer following the Lord’s Prayer in the Eucharistic celebration.
Our gracious God has treated us with the gift of common sense virtues even the Stoics understood without the input of the followers of Jesus. How much more we are able to take them when we can see them in the Gospel life, in our shared Eucharist. Just how we might leave here today, enriched in and by the Word and the Eucharist? We go forth as a People of Life and For Life, a people called to habits of life, to be beacons in the midst of anxiety and threats. We go forth to bring what we become in Eucharist to a troubled and troubling world. Touch someone this week whose life has seldom experienced truth, love, honesty.
Homily # 4
All three readings this morning speak a lot about “faith.” Faith is a word that we use quite frequently. Last week a friend told me that, due to a bad experience, he no longer has faith in the brand of automobile he used to buy. In the secular of business world we hear people talk about “good faith” agreements, or that a certain person was guilty of “bad faith.” People “have faith in their banks” because their accounts are insured. In this sense our use of “faith” means “trust.” And we talk that way about God, too, don’t we? We say, “I have faith that God will help us get through this.” That’s the greatest kind of trust. “Jesus, I trust in You” is a prayer that is frequently on the lips of many of us. We trust in Jesus. We trust that he will save us from danger and sin, and that he will share eternal life with us now and forever. Our trust in Jesus saves us.
When we speak about “the faith,” we are referring to our belief in God. For example, consider how frequently we use the word faith during the Liturgy of the Mass. We began our worship today with the declaration that we are gathered in the name of the Holy Trinity, and we signed ourselves with the sign of our faith, the sign of the cross. In a short while we’ll profess the doctrines of our faith as we recite together the Nicene Creed. “Creed” comes from the Latin, “credo”, “I believe.” “We believe in One God, the Father almighty…. We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ…we believe in the Holy Spirit…in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” This is often what we mean by faith. After the consecration of the bread and wine that will become the body and blood of Christ, we will be invited to proclaim the mystery of our faith. The Eucharistic Prayers include memorial intercessions for our ancestors and friends “who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith and are now at rest.” [#1, the Roman Canon] and “for all the dead, whose faith is known to You alone”[#4]. When we pray for God’s peace we will ask him to “look not on our sins, but on the faith of his Church.” When we say “Amen” as we receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we declare our faith, our belief, in his true presence. Our belief in Jesus saves us.
But there is a third understanding of the word “faith,” one that the people of the Old Testament and their prophets had in mind when they used this word. It’s a much fuller sense than we think of today. Scripture scholars tell us that for the Israelites, “faith” included belief and trust, but even more it carried with it the connotation of “bond”, and “relationship,” particularly their covenant relationship, with God. We can see this in the first reading from Habakkuk. The prophet prays for deliverance from the pain and destruction he and the people of Israel are suffering. God’s answer to him is simple. In time, God’s blessings will come. It may not be according to their timetable, but they must understand that God cares, and God will answer. They will not be disappointed. Why? “The just one, because of his faith, shall live” means “the just one, because he keeps his relationship with God, his bond with God, shall live.”
In the Gospel, Jesus uses the same understanding. “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed” can be confusing. But how clear it becomes if we hear it as his audience at the time would have heard it: “If you had even a small, undeveloped relationship with your heavenly Father, you could do anything!”
This is also the clue that unlocks that last part of the reading. Jesus tells us that when we do something good, we ought to say, “we are useless servants.” We say this because we realize that our ability to lead a good life, to love other people, to be kind, and to serve God and others, is not our own doing. It comes from our relationship with God. He is our source of power; without his help we are useless servants. We acknowledge our bond with God as the source of our virtue. The stronger our relationship with God is, the more we will be empowered to do good things, and perhaps even great things. And insofar as we do, we will give God the credit.
That is why St. Paul tells his young friend Timothy that he has to work on that relationship with God. “Faith” is not only something we believe, and it is certainly not a possession we can lock away or bury in the ground for safe keeping, to call upon when we need it. Our Christian Faith is our bond with God and our communion with one another in the Holy Spirit. Like any relationship, our relationship with God must be worked on. We need to be aware of it, pay attention to it, and devote time and energy to it. We need to “fan it into a flame,” and that takes vigilance and effort. If we don’t, the spark can become an ember, and the ember can die out. If we are really serious about our faith, our bond with God, we will spend time with Him in prayer, in reflection, in adoration. We can do that anywhere: in our home, on break at work, in the car, and especially in his house where he is truly present in the Eucharist. We can study him, and study about him. Did you ever read a gospel from beginning to end? The gospels are very brief writings, but they help us to know Jesus. Or read a good book about Christ, or one of his best friends — the saints. Talk with a friend about your relationship with Our Lord. There are many ways to strengthen our relationship with God.
The foundation of our own happiness, and the foundation of our goodness toward others, is our relationship with God. That is a bond we need to guard and nurture, a flame we need to keep alive “in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”
Homily # 5
Our bishops have declared that the 1st Sunday in October is Pro Life Sunday and suggest Priests and Deacons preach on this topic. However, there is a problem. Discussing abortion can be controversial. Even among Catholics there can be disagreement. However, the position of the Church and of Pope John Paul is clear: abortion is not a matter of choice but is the official doctrine of the Catholic Church. So, how does a preacher approach this topic? The first thing I think about are references to children in the New Testament. My first of two favorites is the visit of the angel to Mary. Here is a young woman, engaged to Joseph and the angel asks her to have a child who will not be Joseph’s son. For a young Jewish girl, this creates problems. When Joseph learns she is pregnant, what if he refuses to marry her? She will be an outcast. She had a “choice”. Her decision required great faith and her reply was simply, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” She accepted the pregnancy knowing full well her decision could have dire consequences. She exercised a choice that has had a profound influence on the whole world.
The other bible reference I enjoy is the account of the children coming to Jesus. I can picture the apostles bustling about and saying, “Don’t bother the Master. He’s tired. Leave Him alone.” Jesus scolded them and said, “Let the children come to me.”
Many in our modern society would not express the same sentiment that Jesus did.. As a matter of fact since the Supreme Court declared abortion legal, more than 40 million unborn children have lost their lives here in the United States.
“Let the children come to Me!”
Worldwide, over 40,000,000 die from abortion each year. In Russia, 60% of all pregnancies end in abortion and in China, if women become pregnant with a second child, the government mandates the child be aborted and the woman sterilized.
“Let the children come to me!”
This is not a situation we can turn away from and say, “I doesn’t effect me or my life and if others have abortions that’s their choice.” We really don’t have a “choice” between what is right and what is wrong. We must make decisions based on God’s law and the teaching of Jesus Christ. Two individuals, Pope John Paul and Mother Teresa, “told it like it is”, so to speak. They said human life begins at conception. The medical experts know human life begins at conception. There is no doubt of the humanity of a child in the 9th month of pregnancy but those who favor abortion can still accept the gruesome practice of “partial birth abortion” in which the baby is literally seconds away from birth. How can anyone approve of such a procedure? The “pro choice” contingent does! From the moment of conception, the only change in a baby in the womb is it’s size. Everything is there at conception. All that happened to each of us in this Church this morning is that we have matured since OUR conception. The reason we are alive is that our mothers also said, “Let it me done to me according to your word.” Our mothers and fathers accepted us and allowed us to come into the world. We cannot condone the practice of “playing God” and determining for ourselves which lives should be saved and which should be destroyed. Just a few weeks ago we were all horrified by the bombing of the New York City World Trade Center. What happened? A few terrorists determined who would live and who would die. It was their choice to kill thousands of people. They determined which targets would be hit. The people who were in those targets had nothing to do with the fate they suffered.
Let’s compare these situations. In this country we have 1,200,000 abortions each year and that means 100,000 children die each month. Worldwide, we have 40 million abortions a year and that means 110,000 unborn children die each day. Are those deaths reported on the television news? Do we hear outcries to “Stop the killing”? No we don’t.
As was the case with those killed in the bombing the unborn child has nothing to do with a decision by others that ends its life. I say again, this is a difficult topic to discuss but I think we, as individuals, must recognize that we don’t have the privilege or the authority to make the decision about whether or not anyone else will live or die.. not if they are 20, 30 or 40 years old or if they are just a few weeks old. At conception everyone is a child of God.
“Let the children come to me!”
When Jesus was on this earth He was not tolerant of actions that were wrong or of those individuals who disobeyed the commandments of His Father. He was specific and His words were directed to everyone, including all of us in this church this morning. He directed everyone to make every effort to change actions or concepts which are offensive to the Father. That means we must act. The killing of the unborn continues because it is legal in this country. Jesus might as, “Yes it’s legal ….but is it right?” His answer would be, “No, it is not right.”
How can we become involved? First by praying, praying for those mothers and fathers facing this horrible decision that they may choose life for their child. Second, we must pray for those women who have had abortions and who, as surveys prove, suffer depression, guilt and a continuing anxiety because of their actions. But the anxiety is not necessary because Jesus has promised forgiveness to everyone who will ask. A simple, “I’m sorry” and a visit to confession will end all anxiety. It’s true. Jesus personifies love and forgiveness and He rejoices when anyone asks for His help. To third thing we must do is to vote. Some might say,“You can’t mix religion with politics!” Jesus Christ was crucified because of politics. Pontius Pilate said, “I find no guilt in this man.” But he was ambitious and didn’t want to offend the powerful Jewish clergy. So, he finally said, “Take Him away but don’t blame me. If you kill him it’s your choice.”
Like Pilate, we, too, must make our own decisions. We must decide if we agree with Jesus when He said:
“Let the children come to me!”
By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:49:00 10/04/2008
MANILA, Philippines—The story is told about a farmer who sent his son to the river. When he got there, he saw five naked girls swimming. Upon seeing him, the girls said: “We’re not getting out until you leave!”
The farmer’s son said: “That’s OK. I’m just here to feed the crocodiles!”
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In today’s Gospel (Mt. 21, 33-43) Jesus relates the parable about a landowner who sent his servants to get the produce of his vineyard from his tenants. When the servants were maltreated, he decided to send his own son thinking that they would respect him, but, the son himself was killed. This parable drives home the basic message of God’s tremendous love for us, and our ingratitude and hardness of heart.
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Take note: There is a landowner and we are all tenants. This concept of stewardship makes us realize that there is Someone greater than ourselves, and as long as we hold on to this, then we do not become proud or abusive. Today, the Lord again reminds us, especially those laden with great wealth and responsibilities, that we are accountable, and that we are dispensable. Forget your ambition of holding on to your worldly wealth and power. No one stays on the top forever. No one leaves this world alive, and no one leaves this world in power.
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A good question for all of us to ask ourselves today is whether, because of greed, we not only have been ungrateful to the landowner, but have also been abusive to our fellow tenants. Have we hurt, have we fooled, have we manipulated our fellow tenants? Have we made life miserable for them? Better to raise these questions now in earnest, rather than be convicted of these when we come face to face with our Creator.
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Some years ago I saw a backhoe half submerged on a seashore. I learned that this expensive machine was being used in a dredging operation when its engine conked out. The operator tried to fix it, but it was too late. The tide set in, and there was no more time to get it out. What a waste, this multimillion-peso machine, rusting away along the seashore. What a waste to see some people so unproductive and idle, going nowhere just because they have been overtaken by events, or have been overwhelmed by difficult situations, many of which are of their own making. When the Lord looks at you and me today, is He pleased with the life we are living? Does He look at you and me with a nod and a smile? Or does He look at you and me with a frown or with sadness in His eyes?
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Last week, I read an item about three men who committed suicide because of despair. Two of them hanged themselves because of financial problems, and one because of a broken heart. It is not for us to make judgement on them. God in heaven surely knows and understands. However, the challenge for all of us is to remind and keep reminding ourselves, as we go through our own pains and trials, that we are accountable to our God for our lives and for whatever happens in our lives. When we lose sight of God and the “Big Picture” we lose the light.
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October is the month of the rosary. Let us not belittle this simple prayer which reminds us of our littleness and our dependence on God in union with the Blessed Mother. There are people who pray proud. I’d rather pray humble and simple.
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Please don’t forget too that October is the month for the missions. St. Therese of the Child Jesus (Oct. 1) is the patroness of the missions. She reminds us to do our own mission wherever we are, and to be united in the world mission through our prayers and sacrifices. The fact that you and I are still alive means that we still have a mission in life. (May misyon ka pa, magbago ka na!)
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“The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” We take courage in these words from the scriptures which remind us that persecution and rejection are part of our lives, but we hold on to our hope in God who sees and knows everything. When there is no persecution or rejection in your life, something is basically wrong. It simply means you are not taking a stand, and you’re taking everything sitting down.
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Speaking of taking a stand or sitting down, I am amazed at my 87-year-old Mama who joins the TV Mass every night with full participation, i.e., she stands at the beginning of the Mass, sits down during the readings, kneels down during the consecration. Her love for the Eucharist is so inspiring, and her devotion to the Blessed Mother is so uplifting.
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A moment with the Lord:
Remind me, Oh Lord, that I am just a steward, and I am only passing by. Amen.
MAGBUNGA MAMUNGA! : Reflection for 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A – October 2, 2011
Ugali mo ba ang maningil? Ang iba sa atin ay mahilig bilangin ang ginagawang kabutihan. Bawat pagpapagod ay dapat may kaukulang bayad! Katulad ng kuwento ni Juan: Si Juan ay isang batang masipag at maasahan sa gawaing bahay. May roon lang nga siyang masamang ugaling maningil sa lahat ng kanyang ginagawa. Minsan ay may pinuntahan ang kanyang nanay at iniwan sa kanya ang gawaing bahay. Katulad ng inaasahan ay malugod namang tinanggap ni Juan. Pag-uwi ng kanyang ina ay may nakita itong papel na nakapatong sa lamesa. Nakasulat: Naglinis ng bahay – sampung piso, naglaba ng damit – sampung piso, nagdilig ng mga halaman – sampung piso, nag-alaga kay junior – sampung piso… kabuuan: singkuwenta pesos. Ps. Yung sampung pisong karagdagan ay VAT. Ang masipag mong anak, Juan. Napangiti ang nanay, kumuha ng papel at nagsulat din: siyam na buwan kitang inalagaan sa aking tiyan – libre, ipinanganak kita – libre, pinakain at pinag-aral – libre, at ngayon mahal kong anak may lakas ng loob kang singilin ako? Patawarin mo ako anak, walang pera ang nanay, wala akong maibibigay sa iyo. Ang nagmamahal mong ina – Juana. Kinabukasan ay nagising si Juan at nakita ang sulat sa kanyang kama. Binuksan iyon at ng nabasa niya ay natulala siya. Kumuha ng isang papel at muling nagsulat. Dear inay… pinapatawadko na po kayo! hehe.. Anung klaseng anak si Juan? Marahil masasabi nating isang anak na walang utang na loob! Pagkatapos ng maraming paghihirap na ibinigay ng kanyang ina ay lumalabas na siya pa ang may ganang magpatawad. Ang kawalan ng utang na loob at di pagbibigay ng nararapat ang mensahe rin ng ating mga pagbasa ngayon. Ang Israel ang ubasan sa unang pagbasa na hindi nagbigay ng bunga sa kabila ng pag-iingat at pag-aalaga ng may-ari. Ang mga punong saserdote naman at Pariseo ang mga katiwala sa talinhaga na hindi nagbigay ng nararapat sa may-ari ng ubasan bagkus ay sinaktan at pinatay pa ang mga sugo kasama na kanyang anak na ipinadala upang sulitin ang kanyang ani. Dahilan dito ay tinanggal sa kanila ang kaakiabat na pribelehiyo na tawaging Kanyang bayang pinili at bagkus ay ibinigay ito sa iba na mas karapat-dapat. Tayo ngang mga Kristiyano ang nabiyayaang magpatuloy nito. Ang talinghagang ay babala sa ating lahat: Balang araw ay matatapos din ang pagpapasensiya ng Diyos sa atin. Huwag nating balewalain at pagsamantalahan ang kanyang kabutihan. Totoo, ang Diyos ay lubos na mabuti at mapagpatawad ngunit ang lahat ay may hangganan din. Libre ang Kanyang biyayang kaligtasan at hindi natin pinaghirapan. Kaya nga nararapat lang na ibigay natin ang nararapat sa Kanya! Huwag makumpiyansa sa pagiging “mabuting Kristiyano” sa pamamagitan ng pagdarasal at pagsisimba lamang. Bagkus, tingnan natin ang sarili kung naibibigay ba natin sa kanya ang nararapat niyang tanggapin, isang buhay na malinis, tapat, at naglilingkod sa iba. Ang pagiging Kristiyano ay isang pribelehiyo ngunit ito rin ay isang responsibilidad. Inaasahan ng Diyos na tayo ay magbunga sa ating pagsunod kay Kristo. Sa kahuli-hulihan ay susulitin tayo ng Diyos kung papaano natin ginamit ang mga ibinigay Niya sa ating pagpapala. May bunga na ba akong maibibigay sa Kanya?
Is our religion merely ritualistic?
By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD
September 30, 2011, 11:26pm
MANILA, Philippines — A Priest who suffered an extremely strained relationship with his parishioners was finally appointed chaplain at the city prison.
In the farewell party, the people came in great numbers to hear him. The priest chose as his text: “I go and prepare a place for you; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). Poor padre. He must have been treated so badly despite his good works that he wished his parishioners to follow him… not as co-chaplains but as inmates!
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In the gospel of this 27th Sunday, we read Jesus’ parable how the heir of the vineyard was badly treated by the tenants, like that priest in the story. The parable refers to the servants as the earlier prophets sent by the vineyard owner (God) to collect the harvest. But they were not only rejected but even killed. Then he sent the heir, referring to Jesus, but he was also mistreated and killed outside the vineyard (referring to His crucifixion outside Jerusalem).
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The parable is a thinly veiled attack against the Jewish leaders’ who were then plotting to kill him. Though addressed to the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees, the parable just as well serves as a warning for every Christian and personally for each of us. For instance, we Filipinos have been blessed with the Christian faith.
We may not be rejecting outright the “heir” (Jesus) as evidenced by our Sunday Mass going, our prayers and pious practices but, as the only Christian country in Asia, are we “bearing fruit that yields a rich harvest”?
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It is highly laudable of Filipinos that a lot of Catholics are attending Sunday Masses and receiving Holy Communion when compared to other countries where the numbers of Mass goers have dwindled. However, it is noted that religion for most Catholics is merely conventional or ritualistic fulfilling minimum obligations.
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There’s a short article by an anonymous author entitled “What Is Christianity,” which says: “In the home it is kindness; in business it is honesty; in society it is courtesy; in work it is justice; toward the unfortunate it is pity; toward the weak it is help; toward the wicked it is resistance; toward the fortunate it is congratulations; toward the penitent it is forgiveness; toward God it is reverence and love.”
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To be true Christians, we should bear fruits of good works in daily life as stated in the above article. What we do in Church should not be split from our day-to-day dealings and conduct.
If, for instance, after attending Holy Mass or joining a Black Nazarene procession, we go home and continue to be unkind, harsh and unjust to our workers, or make “kurakot,” (ill-gotten wealth), our pious acts are defective and contradictory.
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As Jesus puts it: “How terrible for you teachers of the Law and Pharisees! You give to God one-tenth even in the seasoning herbs…but you neglected the really important teaching of the law such as justice, mercy and honesty” (Mt 23:23).
By: Fr. Jerry M. Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:05 am | Sunday, October 2nd, 2011
The story is told about a priest who started his parish’s fundraising campaign thus: “The good news is that we have more than enough money for the needs of our parish. The bad news is, the money is still in your pockets.”
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In today’s Gospel (Mt. 21, 33-43) Jesus, in the Parable of the Vineyard, reminds us of vintage time – when the owner will require from the tenants their produce. We too will have to make a final accounting before our Creator. Will we be caught with our money still in our pockets?
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Payback time! Unless and until we have this perspective in life, we will continue to get and never quite give, and that is unfortunate. Some people spend a whole lifetime just getting and hoarding. Such people may live successful but not meaningful lives.
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“Forget what the world owes you, and concentrate on what you owe to the world.” A person who thinks that the world should understand him/her because of his/her misfortunes or deprivations in the past will never grow up, and will always be burdened by unnecessary complaints and heartaches. St. Francis of Assisi said it so well: “Help me to seek not so much to be understood but to understand, to be loved but to love with all my soul.”
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Some people have so much in their pockets. The first question is, how did they end up with so much? Through hard work? Okay! Through dishonesty? No way! The second question is, how much are they sharing? Remember, let us use our money for our salvation, not for our condemnation.
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We are just tenants. We own nothing. We are accountable to the owner of this world and to the giver of our lives. That makes us responsible to God, to the world, to other people, and to ourselves. We are to live productive and meaningful lives, not wasted, vain, empty, useless, irresponsible lives. For example, at the height of Typhoon “Pedring” last week, many of us prayed to be spared from the flood and the strong winds. We may even have breathed a thanksgiving prayer when it was all over. But how many of us really prayed for the poor who had little or no protection or provisions? And how many of us reached out and helped concretely the victims of the disaster?
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I turned 58 yesterday. Vintage time is near. I’ve had my faults and failures, but I have tried my very best. I am not gifted with much talents, but whatever talent I have, I tried so hard to develop and put it into good use, for the Kingdom of God. My columns may not be much, but they are the fruit of hard work and love. I still write my column by hand, computer illiterate that I still am. (Shame! Will work on it.) In the meantime I’ll write on, if only to touch a heart, give an inspiration or insight, or bring a soul to prayer, and closer to God.
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I still have a few in my bucket list of what I want to do or learn up ahead. A constant inspiration for me is Fr. Julio Barbieto, SVD, 89 years old, who in the last 10 years has learned to use the computer, to play the harp, the guitar, the flute and harmonica. Amazing. So productive, and so pro-active!
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“The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Rejection is part of our life and mission, including persecution. A “fallen” lay preacher came to me the other day asking how to rise from his fall. After I listened to him, all I told him was: “Welcome to humanity! Welcome fellow fallen but still loved disciple! There is hope when humility finally sets in.”
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October is the month of the rosary. Let us continue to pray this simple, often forgotten and even despised devotion. Grace begins when in humility and trust we turn to God, and ask our Blessed Mother just to embrace us.
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October is the month of the missions. Let us continue to pray and support our Filipino missionaries abroad. There are still tickets for “An Evening with Fr. Jerry for the Missions.” Please call 7217457 regarding this fund-raising dinner for our missionaries “out there.”
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The Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit (S.Sp.S), and the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) are celebrating their 100 years of missionary presence in the Philippines in 2012. They are giving the “Mysteries of the Mission” booklet in line with our October rosary devotion. For inquiries, please call 7217457/7210034.
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A Family Prayer: “Lord, bless our family with openness to real communication. Help us to share our joys and sorrows, and give each other freedom and space to grow. Give us the gift of respect and understanding, and help us to love each other no matter what, no matter when. Amen.”
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It’s that beautiful time of the year when farmers are looking forward to better times, to harvest time. Sad to say, many of them will have little or no produce because of the recent and still coming typhoons. When you eat today, please say a prayer for our farmers and laborers who work hard to put food on their dining tables.
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A moment with the Lord:
Lord, when vintage time comes, may I not be found lacking and wanting. Amen.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
The Hidden Message
October 5, 2008
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Also Respect Life Sunday)
(Parable of the Vineyard and the Tenants)
Part one (The Hidden Message)
Part Two (Respect Life)
The gospel that we just listened to has a deep and insightful message contained within the words, however, to many the message is hidden. It is thought that this parable was possibly spoken just 3 days prior to the suffering of Jesus. To help us understand the message, lets look a little closer at the parable and the characters in the story:
The parable begins with the identification of the landowner who planted a vineyard. The Landowner is the image of our Heavenly Father, Our God, our creator, the master of everything.
The vineyard represents the nation of Israel, the chosen people. The Tenants are the religious leaders of Israel, who were responsible for the cultivation of fruitful holiness and the wellbeing of the people of Israel. The servants sent by the Landowner are the prophets, who God sent to warn, to encourage; to challenge, and to rescue, yet they were often greeted with threats of violence and even death. And lastly, The Son that was sent by the Land Owner is Jesus, who was sent by his Heavenly Father.
Now that we understand the characters a little better, the story takes on a somewhat different meaning.
So what message does this parable reveal to us today, 2000 years later? Has God created opportunity for us in our lives? Has he sent people into our lives to help enlighten us, to help show us the way? Have we neglected God and his ways? Have we been blind to God’s grace in our lives, and rejected opportunities to redeem ourselves? Have we let our own personal ambitions and desires drive us away from a holy life?
When Jesus asked the religious leaders at the end of the parable, what the land owner should do to the evil men who killed his servants and his son, they responded by stating that they should be killed, and the land be given to others. Did the religious leaders really understand what Jesus was asking, did they understand the parable, the message of Christ.
I do think so.
Jesus responded by stating: “didn’t you ever read the scriptures?” He stated that the stone that was rejected (speaking of himself) will become the corner stone. What did he mean by this? God had further reveled his message to us through Christ. Did they understand the idea and concept that the ultimate reward in life wasn’t possessions, property, or power, but was eternal life in heaven; and that all we do in life should be grounded in love and service. The powerful leaders of Jesus’ time could not handle this concept. That would mean giving up all that had been accustomed to, Power, Status, Money, and Possessions, to follow such a belief. In many ways, their idol, what they held in such esteem, had become their possessions, their power, and their own status.
Do we face a similar dilemma today, not unlike many of the leaders of Jesus’ time? Over the years I have come to know a particular person, a man, he is very wealthy, and has few limitations in his life due to his wealth. He had been described as a man that is very generous with his money, but very selfish with his time. He is very self-centered in many ways, but doesn’t seem to realize it. He is constantly working and always looking for an opportunity to make money. Many people in our culture would consider him a successful man. He has many friends, but the relationships are superficial, he has very few if any deep and committed relationships. He often treats people disrespectfully and can be rude, yet I think he doesn’t even realize it. When the focus of life becomes a self-centered focus, other people in their life can easily be put into categories of useful or unuseful, especially when related to a self-centered life. Before you know it, even when God is placing good people, and situations for growth in your life, you are unable to recognize them for what they are, because you cannot see beyond your own desires. This man is not a happy man, has little to show in his life other than possessions, and is always in search for the thing that will make him feel complete.
When we come to Mass each week, we not only come to give thanks to God for what we have been given, but we also come to join each other as the Body of Christ. We come to celebrate, but we also come to bring our hurt, our struggles, our pain, at times even our unbelief, and offer it along with Jesus as the sacrifice. We listen attentively to the word of God, and then to the Homily, awaiting God to touch our hearts and minds with some insight. We want to be inspired by God, identifying some aspect of our lives that can be changed, and obtain an understanding of how to change. Our life here on earth is journey. As Saint Theresa of Avila stated:
“Our life should be looked at as a journey toward perfection.” God continues to reveal himself to us, as He sees fit, in an attempt to help us to spiritually grow and mature.
As Jesus was speaking to his disciples in the gospel today, he stated: “ The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes.”
Think about it.
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes.” When I think of a corner stone, I think of something that keeps everything in place, that secures, that is foundational. What is the cornerstone of your life? What did you bring with you today to offer at Mass. What part of you are you freely giving to God? What are you asking of God? What did you hear God say to you today? If you are not clearly hearing God speak to you, then what obstacles are present in your life that are keeping you separated from God? What are you willing to do about? Do you truly desire to follow God? To follow Jesus? What will you do today, this week, this month, to help you along this journey?
Just as the land owner, God, planted a vineyard in the parable, he created a life unique to you. He created you as a unique person with unique abilities and a unique purpose. He has called you to become a member of his family, a chosen people. He has called you to cultivate your life, and the lives of others to fruitful holiness. He has and will continue to send people into your life, to warn you, to encourage you, to challenge you, and to rescue you. Will you recognize them, embrace them and understand the purpose of the encounter, or will you, like the tenants in the parable, reject the message, reject the opportunity of redemption, and reject the saving message of Jesus Christ?
I am often reminded that any homily that lasts over 7 or 8 minutes usually becomes 2 homilies, so I will keep this brief.
Today is also “Respect for Life Sunday” and I would like to take just 1 additional minute and reflect on this very important topic as reported by our United States Catholic Bishops. Pope Benedict has called upon us to build what he and Pope John Paul II have called “a civilization of love,” A civilization where the rights and dignity of each person – especially those who are most vulnerable, the unborn and the frail elderly – are respected from the moment of conception until the natural death; Where the family, based on the love of husband and wife, Welcomes children into the world and imparts to them the truth and values that make good citizens; Where the hungry and homeless are assisted, The immigrant welcomed, the environment protected, and all legitimate paths to peace are pursued. It is in light of that task of ours that we evaluate the moral quality of what is proposed by candidates and public officials, and work proactively for the ongoing transformation of our society. Thus, we can see clearly that “there are some things we can never do or cooperate with because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons.
These are called “Intrinsically Evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed, and must never be supported or condoned. In our nation, abortion is at the forefront of these intrinsically evil actions. Since 1973, the year abortion was legalized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade; nearly 49 million innocent human lives have been taken.
When Pope Benedict visited America, he praised Americans for their generosity and optimism, and for the role which religion continues to play in our society. He called us to be true to our founding ideals and principles and to maintain the truths and values that flow from faith and reason into the public square. He stated: “Now is the time to respond to the Challenge.” Think about that statement, and what God might be asking of you! “Now is the time to respond to the Challenge”
27th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: A CHRISTIAN HISTORY OF REJECTION
Mt 21: 33-43
REJECTION IS COMMONPLACE. It is something we often encounter in our journey through life. In a family, for example, we can often find a member or two who are rejected by parents or siblings. Leaders, too, are often victims to rejection. In a multicultural society, people belonging to a minority group or class often experience rejection.
As the gospel suggests, the history of Christianity is a history of rejection. It is a story filled with rejections. If we look back to our history of salvation, God first sent prophets to be his servants in his vineyard. But they were killed by the so-called “tenants” of the Lord’s vineyard. Later, God sent his only Son, thinking that the tenants may “respect my son.” But again, Jesus was handed to the elders and chief priests, and was killed.
Although Christianity has been considered as one of the major religions in the world, the picture does not seem to appear good these days. Seemingly, we go back to the old weakness which we call rejection. In other words, the story of rejection happens or continues to our day. Let me give you some examples of present-day rejection. First, Pope Emeritus Benedict was saddened by the hesitation of the European leaders to include Christianity as part of the European constitution. The truth is: Christianity has been part of the history of Europe but its leaders seem to reject it. Second, secularized Catholics no longer find the value of Catholic faith. The diminishing number of Church attendance is an indication of rejection of faith. Third, the “pick-and–choose” mentality of Christians/Catholics is an index of rejection. Most often we compromise our faith or the things that we believe.
What shall we do with this phenomenon that we call rejection?
First, there has to be a renewed appreciation of Christ. Modernity, secularism, and materialism have been the causes of utter rejection of God. People are too confident that they can live all by themselves. Their drive toward independence and freedom causes them to distance or even to forget Christ in their lives. However, these are also a people who lack meaning in their lives. In the face of adversity and failures, these are a people who easily “end” their lives because they no longer find meaning in life. Once we have Christ with us, we won’t be carried away during the times of difficulties because we will remain hopeful.
Second, we must cherish the beauty of our faith. Some Catholics who distance themselves from the Church would blame the Church for being indifferent to them. Ironically, these were a people who did not live out their faith; people who did not actively practice their faith; people who did not participate in the Church’s activities. Actually, their indifference and inactivity resulted to lack of appreciation and knowledge of their faith.
Third, we need to be reminded that our acceptance of Christian teachings must be total. Most of the time, we compromise what we believe in. If the Church teaching appears uncomfortable and burdensome to us, we would not pick that. For instance, the Church teaches the evil of contraception. But legislators persuade people to do otherwise because it is “practical.” But not all that is practical is moral. If the Church insists what she teaches, it is so because it is moral and is in accordance to God’s will us. Therefore, we are called to accept it and follow it without compromises. Our acceptance to these has to be total.
More worshippers than do-gooders
by Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD
October 3, 2014
In the gospel of this 27th Sunday, we read Jesus’ parable of how the heir of the vineyard was badly treated by the tenants. The parable refers first to the servants representing the prophets before the coming of Jesus Christ sent by the vineyard owner (God) to collect the harvest.
* * *
But they were not only rejected but even killed. Then he sent the heir, referring to Jesus, but was also mistreated and killed outside the vineyard (referring to His crucifixion outside Jerusalem).
* * *
The parable is a thinly veiled attack on the Jewish leaders who were then plotting to kill Him. Though addressed to the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees, the parable just as well serves as a warning for every Christian and every one of us.
* * *
For instance, we Filipinos have been blessed with the Christian faith. We may not be rejecting outright the heir (Jesus) as evidenced by our Sunday Mass going, our prayers, and pious practices but, as the only Christian country in Asia, are we “bearing fruit that yields a rich harvest”?
* * *
It is highly laudable of Filipinos that a lot of Catholics are attending Sunday Masses and receiving Holy Communion as compared to other countries where the numbers of Mass goers are dwindling. However, it is noted that religion for most Catholics is merely conventional or ritualistic fulfilling minimum obligations.
* * *
I recall what a reader of our column Ms. M. Layumas from San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, wrote some years ago, thus: “I’ve been wondering what the Church really meant about a Christian community. I think it is not only a worshipping community but one acting out God’s love in the service of others. If the Christians of old cared for one another that no one among them was found wanting, why can’t the Christians of today follow after their example?
* * *
“From what I most generally see, there are a lot of worshippers but there are only a few Tom Dooleys or Mother Teresas who care for the poor, the sick, and the suffering.
“Where there is displacement and destitution, can’t the Church leaders unite and collaborate with one another and do the deeds of charity in concrete action?”
* * *
To be true Christians, we should bear fruits of good works in daily life. What we do in Church should not be separated from our day-to-day dealings and conduct.
Jesus condemns in strong words such a split type in piety, saying: “How terrible for you teachers of the Law and Pharisees! You give to God one-tenth even in the seasoning herbs… but you neglected the really important teaching of the law such as justice, mercy and honesty” (Mt 23:23).
* * *
In the New Testament, worship and service are intimately linked. This is why our coming together for prayer and meditation is often called “worship service.” Worship ends when the final blessing is pronounced, but the end of worship is the beginning of service.
Thus the celebrant says at the end of the Mass: “Go now in peace to love and serve the Lord and one another.”
See Today’s Readings: Cycle A