Generosity of God…
In the classic “Charlie Brown Christmas Special,” Sally is writing a letter to Santa Claus and in the process generates an enormous list of toys she wants. Then at the conclusion of her North Pole-bound letter she writes, “But if that is too much to carry, just send cash.” When Charlie Brown sees this and despairs over his own sister’s greed, Sally indignantly responds, “All I want is my fair share. All I want is what I have coming to me.”
The readings for this weekend are all about a sense of human justice, contrasted with the extravagant grace of a compassionate and loving God. The first reading is from the last chapter (55) of the second Isaiah. The second Isaiah is written end of the Babylonian exile. It explains the unconditional promise of redemption. Today’s first reading Isaiah reminds us that God doesn’t think in the same way that we do. God is more merciful than we are. The Lord God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.”
The Gospel reading is “parable of workers in the Vineyard.” We see a generous landlord. The Kingdom of Heaven, says Jesus, is like a landowner who goes out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Those days it was used for people who come to the town and wait for someone to call them for work. They were entirely at the mercy of chance employment. Also, the weather plays a very crucial role during the harvesting time. So it is normal the landlord goes to get people as much as possible. Their day started at 6 AM, so the workers agree to work for the usual daily wage, which is one Denarius. At nine AM, he rounds up another group. At noon, he recruits the third team, and then at three o'clock, a fourth. Finally, at 5 PM, he finds still more laborers who are willing and able to work. He sends them into the vineyard to do what they can before sundown. As the day ends, the landowner instructs his manager to pay one denarius each, the daily living wage, to all the workers, beginning with those who started at five in the afternoon.
It sounds unfair, isn’t it? If we want to understand this passage, we need to read the last part of the previous Chapter. Matthew chapter 19:21, Jesus said to a rich man, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. Then Peter asks, (27) “We have given up everything and followed you. What will be for us?” Jesus promised them ‘hundred times more’ then he said, (30) “Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” Even though Jesus promised a hundred times more to his disciples, this parable is a warning for them.
This parable should also be applied to our view of our relationship to God. God loves the person who is faithful throughout the day. His loves cradle Catholics who practice their faith throughout their lives. He also loves those who come to him during the day and even in the evening. Many people respond to God’s mercy at the end of their lives. God loves them for taking a huge step away from their former lives and for falling into the arms of His Mercy. We cannot impose our ways on the Lord. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”
Thank you! We reached the goal of the rectory roof project because of your generosity. I would like to express gratitude to all those who participated in our raffle and to all those who made generous donations to this fundraising. Thank you!
The day after 9/11, Pope John Paul II on his Wednesday address to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square said, “I cannot begin this audience without expressing my profound sorrow at the terrorist attacks which yesterday brought death and destruction to America, causing thousands of victims and injuring countless people…Yesterday was a dark day in the history of humanity, a terrible affront to human dignity. After receiving the news, I followed with intense concern the developing situation, with heartfelt prayers to the Lord. How is it possible to commit acts of such savage cruelty? The human heart has depths from which schemes of unheard-of ferocity sometimes emerge, capable of destroying in a moment the normal daily life of a people. But faith comes to our aid at these times when words seem to fail. Christ’s word is the only one that can give a response to the questions which trouble our spirit. Even if the forces of darkness appear to prevail, those who believe in God know that evil and death do not have the final say. Christian hope is based on this truth; at this time our prayerful trust draws strength from it…”
We remember September 11 with pain. Let us try to imagine we were on the ground running to save our lives or running to someone else. What will be our mental and emotional condition? It is hard to explain, isn’t it? Today we remember all those who died on that day, all those who did heroic action to save a life, and pray for them. Did we change a lot since 9/11? It seems to me what I heard about America before I came and since I came, I met a different America. If we watch the news, we hear about hate and unrest these days. Did we change?
It is very meaningful that we have beautiful readings about forgiveness. The first reading ends with a good reminding and gives us a challenge, “Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.”
The Gospel brings a similar message. We have seen Peter the last couple of weeks in the Gospel. The first one was, Peter proclaims the Faith, the second one was, Jesus, telling Peter, “Get behind me, Satan”. Here Peter proudly asks, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” What was Jesus answer, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” In other words, Jesus was telling Peter and the listeners that there is no limit. If we look at the book of Genesis 4: 23-24, we see Lamech, who is a sixth-generation descendent of Cane, said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; wives of Lamech, listen to my utterance: I have killed a man for wounding me, a man for bruising me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.” In the house of Cain, they had an unending avenge.
Jesus put forward a new guideline for Christian life. Jesus replaced the Old Testament view with love and forgiveness. The first part of the Gospel is a personal dimension of forgiveness. In the second part of the Gospel, Jesus tells a story to tell them the communal dimension of forgiveness.
The second reading, Paul discusses with Christians in Rome when there were tensions among them between the Gentile Christians and the Jewish Christians on the matter of law. Apostle Paul reminds them that Christians are adopted sisters and brothers of Jesus, so there is no place of hatred and bitterness. Paul says, “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.” The second reading sums up the entire reading. So let us ask a question, where are we today as Christian and as an American?
The sign “The Buck Stops Here’’ was on President Harry S. Truman’s desk in his White House office. When I checked the meaning, I found out that the “responsibility for something cannot or should not be passed to someone else.” This weekend readings invite us to reflect on our responsibility as a disciple of Christ.
In the first reading the Lord said to Ezekiel, “You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel.” What the watchman or security is supposed to do – care for their people. They were in Babylonian exile and the prophet exists like a watchman only for the good of others. He is to give them God’s words, to challenge them, and to correct them from time to time.
In the Gospel, Jesus instructs us on the responsibility of the disciple of Christ. The Gospel of Matthew 18:1-20 is followed by the parable of the lost sheep (10-14). In that parable, the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in the hill and goes in search of the lost sheep. Today’s Gospel Jesus gives us, as a church and as an individual Christian to look for our sisters and brothers. In the book of Leviticus 19:17 we read, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason with your neighbor, lest you bear sin because of him. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourselves, lest you too be tempted.”
The second reading summarizes both readings, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” Being a watchman of our brother and sister is an overwhelming responsibility. The word “watch” means to guard and protect. When the LOVE involved then it becomes easier. For example, parents, look after their children. They watch their children grow, mature, and strike out on their own. I call it, it is their love journey. Once India President Abdul Kalam who was an aerospace scientist, was asked, “what was his greatest accomplishment in life?” He replied that basically he is a teacher when his student completes his/her doctorate, he sees it as his greatest accomplishment. We can be a watchman in so many different ways. Being watchman, as Church, as an individual Christian- parent, teacher, and so on.
As Church, and as a disciple of Christ, the salvation of us and others should be the greatest concern. James 5: 19-20 says, “My brothers if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone brings him back, he should know that whoever brings him back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sin.” It starts from the family, spread through the Church and community, and conquers the world. Jesus explains in the Gospel how important that we are there for one another. We come together to celebrate the Eucharist, share from the same plate and chalice the love and life of Christ and send out to proclaim the good news of oneness – being one in Christ.
Jesus Christ brought the gift of reconciliation and life through his passion, death, and resurrection. Today’s readings confront us with two aspects of the question. First, each one of us is called to conversion. Second, each one of us is the keepers of our sister and brother.