Wednesday, September 20, 2017

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Servant of the Word) September 24, 2017 (Cycle A)

Reading I: Isaiah 55:6-9   For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm: 144: 2-3, 8-9, 17-18   
The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

Reading II: Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a   Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 

Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16a  
Are you envious because I am generous? Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.


Dr. Scott Hahn's commentary:

The house of Israel is the vine of God, who planted and watered it, preparing the Israelites to bear fruits of righteousness (see Isaiah 5:7;  27:2-5).
Israel failed to yield good fruits and the Lord allowed His vineyard, Israel’s kingdom, to be overrun by conquerors (see Psalm 80:9-20). But God promised that one day He would replant His vineyard and its shoots would blossom to the ends of the earth (see Amos 9:15Hosea 14:5-10).
This is the biblical backdrop to Jesus’ parable of salvation history in today’s Gospel. The landowner is God. The vineyard is the kingdom. The workers hired at dawn are the Israelites, to whom He first offered His covenant. Those hired later in the day are the Gentiles, the non-Israelites, who, until the coming of Christ, were strangers to the covenants of promise (see Ephesians 2:11-13). In the Lord’s great generosity, the same wages, the same blessings promised to the first-called, the Israelites, will be paid to those called last, the rest of the nations.
This provokes grumbling in today’s parable. Doesn’t the complaint of those first laborers sound like that of the older brother in Jesus’ prodigal son parable (see Luke 15:29-30)? God’s ways, however, are far from our ways, as we hear in today’s First Reading. And today’s readings should caution us against the temptation to resent God’s lavish mercy.
Like the Gentiles, many will be allowed to enter the kingdom late, after having spent most of their days idling in sin.
But even these can call upon Him and find Him near, as we sing in today’s Pslam. We should rejoice that God has compassion on all whom He has created. This should console us, too, especially if we have loved ones who remain far from the vineyard.
Our task is to continue laboring in His vineyard. As Paul says in today’s Epistle, let us conduct ourselves worthily, struggling to bring all men and women to the praise of His name.
Fr. Tommy Lane (Mount St. Mary's University) has a wonderful nugget drawn from the readings.
"It is not always easy to understand God’s ways. In any case it would be silly to be jealous of others because we only see the outside and we never know what cross others have to carry."  

Saturday, September 16, 2017

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Servant of the Word) September 17, 2017 (Cycle A)

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time  (Cycle A)

Catechism Links[1]
CCC 218-221: God is love
CCC 294: God manifests his glory by sharing his goodness
CCC 2838-2845: “Forgive us our trespasses”

“Crucifixion” by Sir Anthony van Dyck, c. 1622

Readings and Commentary:[4]

Reading 1: Sirach 27:30-28:7

Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the LORD's vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor's injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
can he seek pardon for his own sins?
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
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.
Commentary on Sir 27:30-28:7

The son of Sirach makes a remarkable statement. He points out that to withhold forgiveness is sinful. He tells us that by embracing our anger at another who may have harmed us, by seeking vengeance on that person, we will suffer God’s anger and fall into sin ourselves. He goes on to exhort the faithful to forgive injustice, and in doing so, God will forgive the sins you have committed.

The prophet reminds his readers in what almost becomes a commentary on the sixth petition of the Lord’s prayer, that they must look to the final judgment and forgive those who have harmed them. By showing mercy, mercy will be shown to them by the judge of all things. He reminds us to look to the commandments and “…hate not your neighbor.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12

R. (8) The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.

He pardons all your iniquities,
heals all your ills.
redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.

He will not always chide,
nor does he keep his wrath forever.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.

Psalm 103 is a hymn of praise and thanksgiving. Remembering God’s promise of mercy for the innocent, the psalmist praises God for his compassion and gives thanks for his salvation. It is not by human merit that God judges, but out of compassion and mercy.

CCC: Ps 103 304
Reading 2: Romans 14:7-9

Brothers and sisters:
None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.
For if we live, we live for the Lord,
and if we die, we die for the Lord;
so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.
For this is why Christ died and came to life,
that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
Commentary on Rom 14:7-9

Two of St. Paul’s themes are tied together in this short passage from his letter to the Romans. By stating that those who profess faith in Jesus accept his adoption – life is no longer separate from God, but one in the Lord through this adoption (see also Romans 6:3ff). The second theme is the salvation brought about by the resurrection. In the resurrection, Christ defeated death and all of the souls previously dead in sin because of Adam, were now freed through Jesus’ sacrifice. He became the Lord of the living and the dead.

CCC: Rom 12-15 1454, 1971; Rom 14 1971; Rom 14:7 953; Rom 14:9 668

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
"Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.'
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
'Pay back what you owe.'
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant!
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?'
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart."
Commentary on Mt 18:21-35

This passage begins with the discourse on “Forgiveness.” Peter asks the question that paraphrases one asked in the book of Genesis by Lamech (Genesis 4:24). He is looking for guidance in the form of a finite amount of forgiveness, and in answer receives the command that forgiveness must be infinite (represented by the multiples of seven and ten).

To emphasize this need for forgiveness, the Lord launches into the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.  The moral of this particular parable is the measure we use to judge others is the same measure that will be used by God to measure us, when we come before him. “The model is the forgiveness of God, which knows no limit; and neither should man's forgiveness. If man does not forgive, he cannot expect forgiveness; if he does not renounce his own claims, which are small, he cannot ask God to dismiss the claims against him.”[5]

CCC: Mt 18:21-22 982, 2227, 2845; Mt 18:23-35 2843

Sacred scripture from St. Matthew and Sirach provides a compelling theme of forgiveness, one of the features of Christ’s teaching that differentiates Christianity from other belief structures. There is a strong support in the readings for the Church’s dogma on Purgatory as well. This is especially evident in the last verse (Matthew 18:35): “Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

The forgiveness the Lord is talking about is more than just saying: “I’m sorry.” We use as an example the story of a large family. There were seven brothers and sisters at the time the father of this family passed away (his wife having predeceased him). The oldest of the children was named executor and was responsible for the settlement of the estate (and it was a very modest estate – a small house with its contents and a few thousand dollars in cash). There were accusations made about the disposition of the estate and feelings were hurt. It resulted in the family splitting into factions, four against three, both sides saying terrible things about the other. The resulting rift spawned years of spite that found its way into some of the children of these once loving siblings, who carried on the rhetoric. The petty hatreds festered over the paltry assets of a father who would have corrected them. This lack of forgiveness will undoubtedly cost them a long stay in that land of purification. Even in later life, when some words of reconciliation were said, forgiveness from the heart was not there. Like two prizefighters shaking hands before a bout, the handshake does not mean they are friends.

…unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.” What exactly is: “from your heart”? Does that mean the same as loving your brother? Ironically, the lack of forgiveness that will end us up in the hands of the torturers will likely come because of someone we know well, possibly even family. It is the people we love and trust that can earn our hatred most deeply. Over and over, families are torn apart because of actions that will not be forgiven. Violations of trust can only occur when there is trust there to begin with and trust is expected.

Face it, when someone you don’t know wrongs you, say they steal something from you, it is much easier to forgive them than if that person was a person you loved and trusted. In that instance you feel not only the loss of that which was stolen, but the loss of trust that went with your feelings toward that person. In those circumstances it takes a special effort to forgive “from the heart.”

It is, therefore, critical for us that, unless we don’t care where we end up and for how long, we look at these situations and make our best effort at forgiveness. In situations where family and friends are involved, not only will the act of forgiveness save you from anguish in the next life, but it will bring you peace in this one. It is this peace of Christ we all yearn for and it is our great hope to be with him in the age to come.


In other years on this date: Optional Memorial for Saint Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

[1] Catechism links are taken from the Homiletic Directory, Published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 29 June 2014
[2] The Picture is “Crucifixion” by Sir Anthony van Dyck, c. 1622
[4] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[5] See Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall, Inc., © 1968, 43; 127

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle A)
 September 17, 2017

Reading I: Sirach 27:30-28:7   Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.
Responsorial Psalm: 103:   The Lord is kind & merciful, slow to anger, & rich in compassion.  (vs 1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12)
Reading II: Romans 14:7-9   For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord
Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35   Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? 
Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. 

Mercy and forgiveness should be at the heart of the Christian life.
Yet, as today’s First Reading wisely reminds us, often we cherish our wrath, nourish our anger, refuse mercy to those who have done us wrong. Jesus, too, strikes close to home in today’s Gospel, with His realistic portrayal of the wicked servant who won’t forgive a fellow servant’s debt, even though his own slate has just been wiped clean by their Master.
It can’t be this way in the kingdom, the Church. In the Old Testament, “seven” is frequently a number associated with mercy and the forgiveness of sins. The just man sins seven times daily; there is a seven-fold sprinkling of blood for atonement of sins (see Proverbs 24:6; Leviticus 16). But Jesus tells Peter today that we must forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven times. That means every time.
We are to be merciful as our Father in heaven is merciful (see Luke 6:36Matthew 5:48). But why? Why does Jesus repeatedly warn that we can’t expect forgiveness for our trespasses unless we’re willing to forgive others their trespasses against us?
Because, as Paul reminds us in today’s Epistle, we are the Lord’s. Each of us has been purchased by the blood of Christ shed for us on the cross (see Revelation 5:9). As we sing in today’s Psalm, though we deserved to die for our sins, He doesn’t deal with us according to our crimes. The mercy and forgiveness we show to others should be the heartfelt expression of our gratitude for the mercy and forgiveness shown to us.
This is why we should remember our last days, set our enmities aside, and stop judging others. We know that one day we will stand before the judgment seat and give account for what we’ve done with the new life given to us by Christ (see Romans 14:10,12).

So we forgive each other from the heart, overlook each other’s faults, and await the crown of His kindness and compassion.

Reflection by Scott Hahn

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) September 10, 2017

Reading I: Ezekiel 33:7-9     ". . . . you shall warn them for me."
Responsorial Psalm: 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9    "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."
Reading II: Romans 13:8-10   "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 
Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20-20"Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
                                                         and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."  AND

As Ezekiel is appointed watchman over the house of Israel in today’s first Reading, so Jesus in the Gospel today establishes His disciples as guardians of the new Israel of God, the Church (see Galatians 6:16).
Jesus also puts in place procedures for dealing with sin and breaches of the faith, building on laws of discipline prescribed by Moses for Israel (see Leviticus 19:17-20Deuteronomy 19:13). However, the heads of the new Israel (which is the Church), receive extraordinary powers—similar to those given to Peter (see Matthew 16:19). They have the power to bind and loose, to forgive sins and to reconcile sinners in His name (see John 20:21-23).
Notice that both the Gospel and the First Reading presume that believers have a duty to correct sinners in our midst. Ezekiel is even told that he will be held accountable for their souls if he fails to speak out and try to correct them.
This is the love that Paul speaks of in his Letter to the Romans (13: 8-10). To love our neighbors as ourselves is to be vitally concerned for their salvation. We must make every effort, as Jesus says, to win our brothers and sisters back, to turn them from the false paths.
*St. John Chrysostom writes, 
"So if your Lord shed His blood for that person, surely it is right for each of us to offer at least some words of encouragement and to extend a helping hand to those who through laxity have fallen into the snares of the devil."  
We should never correct out of anger, or a desire to punish.
Instead our message must be that of the responsorial Psalm—urging our brothers and sisters (and reminding ourselves) to hear God’s voice and to harden not our hearts.

Dr. Scott Hahn 
St. Teresa of Avila  
* St. John Chrysostom  Homily 6, 18-20: SC 50, 224-225
Father Kavanaugh   (Father Kavanaugh was a professor of Philosophy at St. Louis University in St. Louis. He reached many people during his lifetime.)

Harden Not Your Heart

Psalm 95:8-9
"Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness, 'When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen My work.' "
Hebrews 3:7-9
"Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, 'Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried me by testing me, and saw my works for forty years.' "    
Ephesians 4:18
" . . . being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; . . . "

Proverbs 28:14
"How blessed is the man who fears always, But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity."

Zechariah 7:12
"They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the LORD of hosts."
Romans 2:5
"But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God . . . . "
Hebrews 3:12-15
"Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,  for it is said, "Oh,that today you would hear his voice; 'Harden not your hearts as at a rebellion.' "    
Hebrews 4:5-7
". . . . and again in this passage, 'They shall not enter my rest.' Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, He again fixes a certain day, "Today," saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, 'Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.' "   
Exodus 10:20
"But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go."
Isaiah 6:10
"Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed."
John 12:40
"He has blinded their eyes and he hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them."  
Deuteronomy 15:7
"If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; . . . "
Psalm 17:10
"They have closed their unfeeling heart, With their mouth they speak proudly."
Psalm 73:7
"Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of their heart run riot."
Psalm 119:70
"Their heart is covered with fat, But I delight in Your law."
Matthew 19:8
"He said to them, 'Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.' "
Mark 10:5
"But Jesus said to them, 'Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.' "
1 John 3:17
"But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?"
Exodus 7:13
"Yet Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said."
Exodus 8:19
"Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, 'This is the finger of God.' But Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said."
Exodus 9:7
"Pharaoh sent, and behold, there was not even one of the livestock of Israel dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go."
1 Samuel 6:6
"Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He had severely dealt with them, did they not allow the people to go, and they departed?"
Jeremiah 5:23
"But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; They have turned aside and departed."
Jeremiah 9:14
". . . . .but have walked after the stubbornness of their heart and after the Baals, as their fathers taught them,"
Jeremiah 11:8
"Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked, each one, in the stubbornness of his evil heart; therefore I brought on them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.'"
Jeremiah 13:10
"This wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts and have gone after other gods to serve them and to bow down to them, let them be just like this waistband which is totally worthless."
Jeremiah 16:12
"You too have done evil, even more than your forefathers; for behold, you are each one walking according to the stubbornness of his own evil heart, without listening to Me."
Jeremiah 18:12
"But they will say, 'It's hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.' "
Jeremiah 23:26
"How long? Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsehood, even these prophets of the deception of their own heart . . . "
2 Chronicles 36:12-13
"He did evil in the sight of the LORD his God; he did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet who spoke for the LORD. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar who had made him swear allegiance by God But he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD God of Israel."
Mark 6:51-52
"Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened."
Mark 8:17
"And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, 'Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart?' "
Matthew 13:15
For the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.   
Mark 3:5
After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
Acts 28:25-27
"And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, 'The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying, 'Go to this people and say, 'You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and i would heal them.' "     
Psalm 51:17
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise."
1 Kings 8:46-49
"When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; if they take thought in the land where they have been taken captive, and repent and make supplication to You in the land of those who have taken them captive, saying, 'We have sinned and have committed iniquity, we have acted wickedly'; if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who have taken them captive, and pray to You toward their land which You have given to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and the house which I have built for Your name; listen in heaven, your dwelling place, to their prayer and petition, and uphold their cause."

2 Chronicles 34:27
"Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you," declares the LORD."
Jeremiah 3:17
"At that time they will call Jerusalem 'The Throne of the LORD,' and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of the LORD; nor will they walk anymore after the stubbornness of their evil heart."
Ezekiel 18:31
"Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourself a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel?"

Ezekiel 11:19
"And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh . . . . "
1 Kings 8:58
" . . . . that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, which He commanded our fathers."
Jeremiah 31:33
"But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people."
Ezekiel 36:26
"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."