"Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me." Today we celebrate the feast of an unusual kind of king. Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, does not run his kingdom in the standard fashion. Instead of insisting upon the pomp and circumstance that usually surrounds earthly royalty, Jesus has a different focus. He thinks not of himself, but of those he loves. And in today's Gospel, his interest is especially focused on the poor and suffering in our midst.READ MORE
"But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master's money." This servant was scared. He didn't want to take any risks and just wanted to play everything safe. As he confesses to his master, "Out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground." And the master was not pleased. The other servants who invested the money he gave them were richly rewarded for their efforts to produce more. But this servant was punished for letting his fear rule the day. What factors are keeping us from making a return on God's investment in us?READ MORE
"But the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps." The foolish versus the wise. Today's parable sets these two groups in stark contrast to one another. Two crowds of young women wait for a wedding feast. One group comes prepared for the unexpected, the other just assumes everything will go according to schedule. But it doesn't! The Bridegroom is late, and the foolish virgins are left out in the dark--literally--while the wise ones enjoy the feast inside.
The lesson here is not just about having foresight and gathering the corresponding equipment. It's about being ready for the second coming of Christ. Jesus himself is the "Bridegroom." Traditionally we refer to the Church as the "Bride of Christ" and we, as the people of God who constitute the Church, are even now awaiting the real feast, the culmination of time when Jesus returns. But are we standing among the wise or the foolish as we wait?READ MORE
"For they preach but they do not practice." The scribes and Pharisees may be the ones Jesus was speaking about in today's Gospel, but we must be careful not to dismiss his words when it comes to our own actions. Jesus offered a difficult challenge to those honor-seekers that we must also heed when he said, "The greatest among you must be your servant." This is not the way the world usually works. Generally speaking, the idea of being a servant is considered inferior to being someone who has risen to high levels of leadership or status. But Jesus wants people in positions of authority to selflessly serve those over whom they have influence. And he insists that the leaders who establish laws, rules, and guidelines do not excuse themselves from following their own directives! "Practice what you preach," as the saying goes.READ MORE
"The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." Jesus gives us a simple moral principle in today's Gospel. He speaks about two kinds of love: love of God and love of neighbor. He tells us that all the other laws and teachings of our faith fall under these two headings. So if we can master these, we will be in good spiritual shape!READ MORE
"Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." The Pharisees, full of malice, were trying to "entrap Jesus in speech." They concocted a question that flattered him, saying, "You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth," but which also put him in a position to be in big trouble if he challenged the Roman laws. Jesus, of course, escaped the trap with his brilliant reply. We can appreciate the wisdom of his response, but more importantly, we can appreciate what it means for us. To repay to Caesar, in this case, meant to give appropriate allegiance to the secular authorities. We too are under such authority, and although Uncle Sam is different than Caesar in countless ways, the fact remains that as constituents of this country who enjoy its many benefits, we are also called to extend a certain kind of tribute to our government.READ MORE
"Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit." The chief priests and elders listening to Jesus must have been furious. After telling the parable about the tenants who abused the owner's property and killed his son, Jesus had a tough lesson to teach. He compared the Jewish leaders to these terrible tenants. They, like the selfish workers in the vineyard, were guilty of not respecting proper authority and of trying to seize control--not of grapes, in this case, but of religious matters. In short, they were not bearing fruit for God's kingdom, but only for their own prestige and privilege.READ MORE
In the middle of winter, when life seems to be frozen and gone, the church asks us to pray. On the anniversary of the Supreme Court case titled Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion, we are called to pray in a special way for the protection of the unborn, in a very real way the very image of the helpless. We know winter causes life to slow down, but we are a people of faith and believe that life, in all its wonder, is worthy of our protection. Perhaps giving of your time or money to a local adoption agency is a way you may protect an unborn child. We need to let people know there are more options and that abortion is never considered as an option.READ MORE
"Are you envious because I am generous?" So often, we expect God to operate the way we do. We expect to be able to understand everything he does. When we don't, it's tempting to think that the problem is on God's end, not ours. In today's Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about God's mercy. And some of us may not understand it at first glance. Why should the "lazy" workers who showed up late in the day be given the same wage as the diligent ones? Doesn't this suggest a kind of fundamental disrespect for the efforts of the first group? Extending the principle spiritually, we might ask a similar question. Why should sinners who spend much of their lives doing wrong be allowed to "show up" suddenly and receive the mercy of God? What about those faithful Christians who have walked the road of virtue all along? Shouldn't they receive something more than these ne'er-do-wells?READ MORE
"I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?" The parable Jesus tells today is the story of a king, but in truth it is about Jesus himself. He is the "king" who has forgiven our debts. We are the "servants" whose sins have earned us chastisement. But when we repent and ask for Christ's mercy, he grants it to us without hesitation. The point of the parable, then, is that we too should extend this mercy to others. We should not be like that "wicked servant" who begged for mercy but would not show it to others.READ MORE
"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." This is a fascinating promise. Jesus enlightens us today about the power of communal faith. He emphasizes that a gathering of like-minded believers, small though it may be, has a powerful effect. As he tells his disciples, "If two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father."
Alright then, what are we waiting for? We should take Jesus up on this amazing offer! Going to Mass is one way to do so. When we gather together every Sunday, we do more than listen to readings and receive the Eucharist. We also PRAY together. The priest leads us in these prayers, of course, but we are meant to join with him, as the Second Vatican Council put it, with "fully conscious, and active participation" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #14). We are to make the prayers our own by attentively joining in with them from our hearts. Mindlessly reciting "Amen" or absently whispering the words of the Our Father likely loses the effect Jesus was talking about in today's Gospel. But truly praying together with our parish community certainly fits the bill.READ MORE
"You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." Peter had expressed horror at the prophetic words announcing that Jesus' suffering and death were imminent. Peter didn't want his friend and teacher to undergo this terrible ordeal. He wanted "no such thing" ever to happen to his Lord. But Jesus sharply rebuked Peter's response, comparing it to that of the tempter, Satan. Just as temptation becomes an obstacle to our doing what is right, so Peter was presenting an obstacle to Christ's mission. Suffering was part of it, like it or not. To deny this difficult element of Christ's work would be to deny the bigger plan of God. And so Jesus rightly told Peter that he wasn't thinking like God thinks.READ MORE