Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Of all the commandments of the Old Testament, the commandment to love God and our neighbor is the greatest, and also the most difficult. Love is a decision, a choice to put someone else's needs first. Love, mercy, and justice are all on the spectrum of right actions, with love being the highest. With the love of God, we respond to His love which moves us first. That love calls us to act in love with His other creatures.

Love is a choice, and it is a part of our vocation. All of us are commanded to love, but how? Is it as a spouse, meeting the needs of the other and a family? Is it as a priest who loves his parishioners and leads them in love? Is it as a religious man or woman who spends his or her life in prayer out of love for the world? We are all called to love, and in Love, let us serve Him and each other!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, but to God what is God's? With these words, Jesus evades the trap that the Herodians and Pharisees try to lay for him. In doing so, Jesus calls them on their hypocrisy. They are opposite sides of the political spectrum, the first sign of trap, and the unsolicited compliments are another sign. They ask about the legality (not the politics but the morality) of paying taxes. The Roman empire required this tax of all subjects. The Pharisees saw that the Roman taxes were not legally obligated, though they most likely paid them, and the Herodians of course supported the taxes. If Jesus said no, the Herodians could have reported Him as a revolutionary. If Jesus said yes, He could have been accused of supporting the Roman regime inciting the people who hated the Roman rule. There is another level, here, too. Jesus invites them to show the coin that is used. The fact that they were able to produce the coin is a sign that they were asking a mute question. "Whose image is that..." The image of Tiberius Caesar was against Jewish sensibilities - it was a graven image of a human being, and as such would have been unlawful. Jesus continues "... and whose inscription?" The inscription would have read translated of course, "Tiberius Caesar, Son of Divine Augustus, Son of Augustus", and the back would have read "Pontificus maximus" - The High Priest. This would have been utter heresy - Tiberius' father Augustus proclaimed himself a god, and Tiberius called himself the son of a god, whose high priest he was. The onlookers answer that it is Caesar, and Jesus gives them the answer. In doing so, he is telling them to give to Caesar only what is duly his - the tax. But the glory, praise, honor, and worship belongs to God alone. Whose image, after all, is Tiberius himself in - it is the Image of God. He is not divine or the son of God. But Jesus Christ is, and He deserves the praise and honor due to such an truly August One (the quality, not the month).

Following our vocations, we give to God what is His. When we find the true balance in our vocation we find the balance of living our life for God, while living in the world (in, not of). We also take a more proper role in civic activities as God has called us as individuals.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time

In the Gospel this weekend, we hear of the King who throws a wedding feast for his son, but those invited will not come. The reasons: Fields and business. Not a very good excuse, ultimately, and that is exactly the point. They simply reject the invitation. Some went so far as to kill the messengers. Yet the cattle are slaughtered and the feast must go on.

We are called to the feast that the Lamb of God has prepared for us. All we have to do is accept. But if we are honest, we reject the invitation, and sometimes 'kill the messenger' ourselves. The Father calls those who will respond, the good and the bad alike.

Matthew's parable adds a curious detail, though, about these who do accept. There is one man who is not dressed in a wedding garment. Perhaps he was dressed in his work clothes, still with evidence of his occupation. He was not prepared, but simply showed up. This is the key, I believe. It is not enough to hear and respond to the invitation, but to prepare our hearts for the feast.

So what is a prepared heart? It is a heart that knows God's love, and in turn beats with love with Christ as our Lord and Savior. It is a heart that knows the truth, and rejoices in it. It is a heart that has been transformed by the Sacraments, especially of Baptism, Reconciliation, and Eucharist. It is a heart not moved with the whims of the world or the emotion, but by the movement of the Holy Spirit. May we all be dressed with the proper heart, converted to Christ, celebrating the wedding of the King's Son with His bride, the Church!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus, in this parable of the vineyard, tells that the builder builds it and leaves it in charge of renters so that he can receive the fruits at their proper time. The renters had other ideas, though. They chose to ignore the owner. They became murderous, and in their twisted logic thought that if they kill the messengers and the owner's son, they would inherit the vineyard.

God is the owner, and we are the renters. Unlike the builder of a vineyard who plants for his own sake, God plants the world for the sake of love. God has no 'need' for the fruits as He in perfect. But we need to give Him the fruits. In gratitude, we give Him our service and praise. But we also pay attention to our own attitudes and assumptions. Just as illogical as thinking that we can inherit a son's wealth through his murder, it is illogical to rationalize our behavior and our sins. Yet we all do, some more than others. We think we can get away with continuing to act like we are the makers and owners of truth. We must humble ourselves, though. We bring our fruits to God, and receive from Him the truth. We let Him give us our mission.