From Our Pastor's Desk
From Our Pastor's Desk
Sunday, October 29th, 2023 – Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A Readings: Isaiah 45:1, 4 -6, Psalm 96 “I love you, Lord, my strength ”, 1 Thessalonians 1:1 -5b, Matthew 22:15 -21
LOVE WITHOUT LIMITS
Today the Pharisees are back on the offensive again, putting Jesus to the test. “Which is the greatest of the commandments?” they ask. Jesus’ answer will change history for centuries: “You shall love God above all things, and your neighbor as yourself. ” Christian charity means loving the way God loves. There is no room for doubt as to how we should fulfill this new commandment; it ’s enough to be imitators of Christ and so become a model for all believers. Sisters and brothers:
1. The human heart has been created to love. The problem starts when we have to choose one love over others: who should we love? What should my love be like? What do I do when my experience of love does not fill me? Christ offers us the prototype of true love. It ’s what Christians call “charity”: it has no trace of egotism and comes with the best guarantees. The more love a Christian gathers in his heart, the better he reflects the image of God that he carries within.
2. Which is first, God or neighbor? We must place these two loves on the scale and see which weighs more. Our experience tells us that the love of God passes through our love for our fellow men and vice versa. When our love for others is upright and just it is a concrete expression of God ’s love. But God ’s love does not compete with other loves, for his love is on an entirely different plane than all other loves. The love of God seems more emotional, while love for neighbor is costly. It demands constant renunciation and generosity. Maybe it ’s the lonely old man who lives in the house across the street and could use a hand around the house. Maybe it ’s that coworker who is always making me look bad, but who I should still keep loving, understanding, and forgiving, despite it all.
3. Gospel love is a synthesis of love for God and love for my fellow man. It cannot be reduced to one or the other of these loves, for that would be like cutting Christianity right down the middle. True love for God necessarily expresses itself in real service to concrete men and women: to have a compassionate, merciful heart towards strangers, the marginalized, widows, orphans, and immigrants. Christian love goes far beyond mere philanthropy.
We Christians are called to live in love. He who lives in love cannot love one person and hate another, for love molds all of his relationships. God ’s love for us is a kind of friendship. A love that reconciles sinners, transforms them interiorly, and renews them. Ruben Dario once wrote: “We must remember that we are brothers/ we must remember the sweet Pastor/ who, when crucified, scourged, exhausted/ implored pardon for his executioners. ” If love is authentic, it must be made concrete in the practice of the commandments. The human heart knows this divine path, for it was made in the image and likeness of God. God gives us this love as a grace; it is not a spontaneous fruit of our hearts. This is why we must insistently ask for it in prayer. Source: ePriest.com / Best Practices and Homily Resources for Catholic Priests
Sunday, October 22th, 2023 – Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A Readings: Isaiah 25:6-10a, Psalm 23 “Give the Lord glory and honor”, Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20, Matthew 22:1-14
BEING HONEST WITH GOD
The Pharisees come up with a new plan to try to trap Jesus during one of their debates by bringing up the hot topic of paying taxes. They inquire, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Jesus ably distinguishes between the rights of God and human authority; clearly pointing out that we are bound by our conscience to be honest with God and with others.
Brothers and sisters:
1. Jesus is praised the most for his honesty by his enemies: “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status”. Christ isn’t fooled. Moreover, he makes use of the Pharisees’ challenge to teach us a lesson about our religious and political behavior. Instead of causing division he reconciles people by means of sound reasoning. “He said to them ‘whose image is this and whose inscription?’ they replied ‘Caesar’s’ at that he said to them, ‘then pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’”
2. The coin that the Pharisees showed Jesus had two sides: on one side was the face of Caesar and on the other was the numerical value of the coin. But although there are two sides, there is only one coin. “Give to God what is God’s” is not an alternative to “giving to Caesar”. A Christian should work for progress and well being, but always in accordance with the Gospel precepts. Moreover, when the Church proclaims the Gospel she is reminding society that God should always come first. In our own Christian lives we also need to value spiritual realities a little more and be a little more detached from material possessions.
3. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” means recognizing the legitimate rights and duties of civil authorities and setting up the right balance between the religious and human spheres. You shouldn’t “give to the Caesar of economy” by treading on the rights of life, work, education, and the dignity of the human person. You shouldn’t “give to the Caesar of power or success” by sacrificing other people who die of hunger and thirst or who are victims of war and terrorism.
This is why we ought to work today to improve and transform the world according to the justice and charity that Christ taught us. We have to work to form a social conscience which moves us to create a community of peace, harmony, service and progress—a society which has both rights and duties to respect life, take care of the environment, and protect the family, culture and religion of all people. Brothers and sisters, isn’t this a good occasion for making an honest comparison between Christ’s attitudes and our own? We can with the help of his grace.
Source: ePriest.com / Best Practices and Homily Resources for Catholic Priest
Sunday, October 15th, 2023 – Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A Readings: Isaiah 25:6-10a, Psalm 23 “I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life”, Phillipians 4:12-14, Matthew 22:1-14
INVITED TO THE BANQUET
The principle message of the parable is this: We have all been invited to heaven, but whether we get in or not depends on each individual person. To achieve heaven! Arriving there is the most important job of our life. What’s the good of a comfortable lifestyle, a successful career if we lose our soul? As St. Teresa of Avila says about true wisdom, “In the end, the one who gets it is the one who is saved; and the one who isn’t saved doesn’t understand anything at all.” Brothers and Sisters:
1. The parable of this wedding banquet gives us the image of a God who calls all people to share a great feast with him, but does not receive the response he was looking for. The banquet is ready, yet few are interested in coming. Some respond indifferently to the invitation because it does not suit their tastes, others openly reject it, and there are still others who devise a plan to boycott and systematically destroy every single moral value to be found in human society, saying that “all expressions of religion should be eliminated, its symbols destroyed, and its voices silenced.”
2. Nevertheless, God’s way of acting always respects human freedom. The King’s guests refuse to come to the banquet because they’re centered on material goods, such as their work or business. In a similar way, many people turn away from the faith on account of hedonism or ideologies which envelope them. The modern world is suffering from a spiritual illness.
If atheism could have its way it would “kill God,” or at least make him disappear from society altogether. Nietzsche, who considered himself an atheist, exclaimed: “What have we done? Haven’t we thrown ourselves headlong into the abyss in every sense of the word? An abyss that is before us, beside us and all around us? Does an above and below still exist? Aren’t we wandering aimlessly through an infinite nothingness?”
3. God continues to hope in us. He has sent his invitations to everyone, to “the good and the bad” alike. Conversion through grace and charity is the key to sharing in the banquet of the Kingdom of God. If this is lacking, we will “be thrown into the darkness outside,” like the man who wasn’t wearing a “wedding garment.” What does the “wedding garment” stand for? Charity. St. Gregory the Great was right in preaching that there were some in the Church who have faith, yet still lack charity. We are all guests at the banquet of the Word, he says, because we have the faith of the Church and nourish ourselves on Sacred Scriptures. Ask yourselves if you come dressed in the wedding garment; take a look at your thoughts and examine your hearts to see if you harbor grudges against anyone, if envy burns inside of you because of someone else’s happiness , or if you maliciously brood over secret desires to harm your neighbor.
There’s a Spanish saying that goes like this: “If you don’t resemble the person you love, it’s because you don’t love those whom you resemble.” When it comes to love, people in love are already similar to each other or they become similar. True love brings us to give of ourselves without holding anything back, without deceptions, without limits, and without hypocrisy. Let us ask God to be this way.
Source: ePriest.com / Best Practices and Homily Resources for Catholic Priests
Sunday, October 8th, 2023 – Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A Readings: Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80 “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel”, Phillipians 4:6-9, Matthew 21:33-43
WHAT KIND OF WINE GROWERS ARE WE?
Jesus explains the history of salvation for the third time in a row to the priests and Pharisees: a story of God's infinite love for his people and their stubborn unfaithfulness. Christ uses a parable to write an autobiography of his death and resurrection.
Brothers and Sisters:
1. The owner of the vineyard sent his own Son to the tenants with the hope that they would at least respect and receive him. Yet, the temptation was irresistible: "Let us kill him and acquire his inheritance". Two thousand years ago they did just that when they killed the Son of God. They couldn't put up with him, and they believed that they could silence forever his extremely inconvenient words by killing him. They believed that if they could succeed in silencing him then they could live in peace and enjoy a privileged status. However, they were mistaken, for "the stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone."
Christ extends his Kingdom on earth through the mystery of his cross and Resurrection. A new people is arising destined to bear much fruit. The Church receives the inheritance due to the people of God.
2. God continues sending messengers who call for action. The Pope, the missionaries, and the committed lay faithful are the conscience of the world through the testimony of their lives. Nonetheless, they are rejected and ignored because they don't go well with a materialistic or liberalistic way of life.
The "good men" of Israel were those who outwardly fulfilled the Covenant by going to the synagogue and saying their prayers, but who neither fulfilled the spirit of the law nor accepted Christ. And what about us? The greatest scandal of our times is Christians who live mediocre and comfortable lives. They are the real enemy of the faith and the Church, since they undermine it from within its own ranks.
3. In a certain sense, we all make up part of the band of murderous vineyard workers. We have killed the Son of God, and find ourselves in a world that sees thousands of men and women dying of hunger and thousands of children who never reach adulthood. We find ourselves amidst juvenile corruption and the exploitation of women. We encounter astrologers and magicians who say that they can tell the future through the constellations. This is the inheritance of a world which insists upon killing the Son of God.
What would happen if we recovered the inheritance of the Son? His inheritance is aimed at happiness and the human person achieving fulfillment on the natural and spiritual levels. If only we could revive the image of Christ and faithfully transmit him to others through the testimony of our lives, then it is very likely that those around us would also take on the commitment to live a new lifestyle as children of God.
Brothers and Sisters, this parable was written for us. Is our behavior like that of the murderous tenants? Are we neglectful, unfaithful, barren workers who thwart the plans of God? Do we truly believe in Jesus Christ, accepting and making his ways our own? In the Eucharist, we celebrate the life of the Risen Christ, the "True Vine" that bore much fruit for his Father. Moreover, from this abundant harvest he has also made wine for us, so that we may drink it and then bear much fruit in him. Let us receive him fervently in Holy Communion. Amen.