Monday, October 9, 2017

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) Scott Hahn

Twenty-eighth Sunday
of Ordinary Time A

October 15, 2017
Reading I: Isaiah 25:6-10   He will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from every face

Responsorial Psalm: 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6  I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Reading II: Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20    I can do all things in him who strengthens me. 

Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14   Many are invited, but few are chosen.
Our Lord’s parable in this Sunday’s Gospel is a fairly straightforward outline of salvation
---> God is the king (Matthew 5:35) 
---> Jesus is the bridegroom (Matthew 9:15)
--->  The feast is the salvation & eternal life that Isaiah prophesies in the First Reading (Isaiah 25:6-10
---> The Israelites are those first invited to the feast by God’s servants, the prophets (Isaiah 7:25). For refusing repeated invitations and even killing His prophets, Israel has been punished, its city conquered by foreign armies.
Now Jesus makes it clear that God is sending new servants, His apostles, to call not only Israelites, but all people—good and bad alike—to the feast of His kingdom. 
---> This an image of the Church, which Jesus elsewhere compares to a field sown with both wheat and weeds, and a fishing net that catches good fish and bad (Matthew 13:24-43, 47-50).
We have all been called to this great feast of love in the Church, where, as Isaiah foretold, the veil that once separated the nations from the covenants of Israel has been destroyed, where the dividing wall of enmity has been torn down by the Blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:11-14).
As we sing in Sunday’s Psalm, the Lord has led us to this feast, refreshing our souls in the waters of Baptism, spreading the table before us in the Eucharist. As Paul tells us in this Sunday’s Epistle, in the glorious riches of Christ, we will find supplied whatever we need.
And in the rich food of His Body, and the choice wine of His Blood, we have a foretaste of the eternal banquet in the heavenly Jerusalem, when God will destroy death forever (Hebrews 12:22-24).
But are we dressed for the feast, clothed in the garment of righteousness (Revelation 19:8)? Not all who have been called will be chosen for eternal life, Jesus warns. Let us be sure that we’re living in a manner worthy of the invitation we’ve received (Ephesians 4:1). Many are invited but few are chosen.
The Story of Nastagio deli Onesti  - One of four paintings by Botticelli

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) October 15, 2017 Bishop Robert Barron

Friends, today's Gospel likens the kingdom of heaven to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. Notice that the father (God the Father) is giving a banquet for his son (God the Son), whose bride is the Church. Jesus is the marriage of divinity and humanity—and we his followers are invited to join in the joy of this union.

The joyful intimacy of the Father and Son is now offered to us to be shared. Listen to Isaiah to learn the details of this banquet: "On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines."

Now there is an edge to all of this. For it is the king who is doing the inviting and it is a wedding banquet for his son. We can see how terribly important it is to respond to the invitation of the King of kings.

We have heard the invitation of God to enter into intimacy with him, to make him the center of our lives, to be married to him in Christ—and often we find the most pathetic excuses not to respond.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) October 8, 2017 (Bishop Barren)

Beautiful Vineyard photographed by Anna Om 
Friends, just before his passion and death, Jesus tells the striking story that is our Gospel for today. The fertile vineyard stands for Israel, his chosen people. But it could be broadened out to include the world. What do we learn from this beautiful image? That God has made for his people a place where they can find rest, enjoyment, good work.

We—Israel, the Church, the world—are not the owners of this vineyard; we are tenants. One of the most fundamental spiritual mistakes we can make is to think that we own the world. We are tenants, entrusted with the responsibility of caring for it, but everything that we have and are is on loan. Our lives are not about us.

Christ is God's judgment. We are all under his judgment. In the measure that we kill him, refuse to listen to him, we place our tenancy in jeopardy. And so the great question that arises from this reading: "how am I using the gifts that God gave me for God's purposes? My money? My time? My talents? My creativity? My relationships?" All is for God, and thus all is under God's judgment.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) October 8, 2017

 . . . . he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed!
for justice, but hark, the outcry!

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
                                                                                     Reading II: Philippians 4:6-9   
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
•  The First Reading, from the prophet Isaiah, likens the house of Israel to the  Lord’s vineyard which he loves.
•  The Psalm shows how the Lord protects this vineyard planted by his own hand.
•  The apostle Paul, in the Second Reading, takes up this theme. He encourages those at Philippi to be confident that their security can only be found in the Lord’s nurturing care of them. 
•  The parable of the wicked tenants (Gospel) shows that even when the Lord’s plans are seemingly thwarted, God can turn all to good. 
This week, we are encouraged, despite our worries, concerns and troubles, to remain in the peace of God, which is so much greater than we could ever understand. It will guard our hearts and minds.

Living on the Vine: Scott Hahn Reflection

In Sunday’s Gospel Jesus returns to the Old Testament symbol of the vineyard to teach about Israel, the Church, and the kingdom of God. And the symbolism of today’s First Reading and Psalm is readily understood.
God is the owner and the house of Israel is the vineyard. A cherished vine, Israel was plucked from Egypt and transplanted in a fertile land specially spaded and prepared by God, hedged about by the city walls of Jerusalem, watched over by the towering Temple. But the vineyard produced no good grapes for the wine, a symbol for the holy lives God wanted for His people. So God allowed His vineyard to be overrun by foreign invaders, as Isaiah foresees in the First Reading.
Jesus picks up the story where Isaiah leaves off, even using Isaiah’s words to describe the vineyard’s wine press, hedge, and watchtower. Israel’s religious leaders, the tenants in His parable, have learned nothing from Isaiah or Israel’s past. Instead of producing good fruits, they’ve killed the owner’s servants, the prophets sent to gather the harvest of faithful souls.
In a dark foreshadowing of His own crucifixion outside Jerusalem, Jesus says the tenants’ final outrage will be to seize the owner’s son, and to kill him outside the vineyard walls.
For this, the vineyard, which Jesus calls the kingdom of God, will be taken away and given to new tenants—the leaders of the Church, who will produce its fruit.
We are each a vine in the Lord’s vineyard, grafted onto the true vine of Christ (see John 15:1-8), called to bear fruits of the righteousness in Him (see Philippians 1:11), and to be the “first fruits” of a new creation (see James 1:18).
We need to take care that we don’t let ourselves be overgrown with the thorns and briers of worldly anxiety. As Sunday’s Epistle advises, we need to fill our hearts and minds with noble intentions and virtuous deeds, rejoicing always that the Lord is near.
If you only have a minute more for reflection:

First Reading   Let me sing the song of his love for his vineyard. 
Reading I: Isaiah 5:1-7

Responsorial Psalm  Visit this vine and protect it, the vine your right hand has planted. 
Responsorial Psalm: 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20

Second Reading  There is no need to worry. 
Reading II: Philippians 4:6-9  

Gospel  This was the Lord’s doing and it is wonderful to see. 
Gospel: Matthew 21:33-43

Monday, October 2, 2017

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) A Presbyterian Sermon

Isaiah 5:1-7
Matthew 21:33-46

NOTE from Soutenus: 
This is an interesting PROTESTANT sermon based on Catholic Readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time. I liked the historical perspective of Isaiah and the tying together of Old and New Testament. 
I would NOT recommend this gal's sermons carte blanche.
She serves on the Clergy Advocacy Board of Planned Parenthood. 
This particular sermon does go to show that we have similarities with many of our fallen away Protestant brothers and sisters. We also have cavernous differences. Let's pray they come home.

In the mid 8th century BCE, it was a lousy time to be an Israelite. The kingdom has been divided into Northern and Southern factions. Neither of them is militarily strong enough to defend themselves from the Assyrians.
The Word of the Lord
The Assyrians had been the big bully neighbor on the northern and eastern borders for a while, but you can see on this map that they move on down the coast, swallowing up Israel and Judah.
They eventually move all the way down into Egypt. And their particular way of maintaining political stability was to dislocate people. They sent the inhabitants of the lands the conquered back to Assyria.
How, as a people who made a covenant with the Lord to be the Lord’s people and to live in the Lord’s Promised Land, how do you reconcile what you know to be true of yourself with the reality of exile?
Remember that for the Israelites, God and real estate are closely related. We still see that today being played out in the Middle East in a way that we in America don’t quite understand. If God has given you a land and you then get evicted from that land, what does that say? About God? About the Assyrian Gods? About you? About the future?
So the Israelites get escorted out of the Promised Land and into exile by the Assyrians. And it is in this political, economic, and existential crisis that the prophet Isaiah shows up.
Unlike some of the prophets who seem to have come from the margins of society, Isaiah appears to have come from the center. He is from Jerusalem and seemed to be familiar with the inner workings of the Temple, which likely made him a religious professional of some sort. He had access to the palace.
And, rather than fighting Assyria with force, Isaiah argued for repentance and trust in divine salvation. Isaiah had a long view of the political reality in which he found himself.
Isaiah’s writings are beautiful, which is all the more striking considering the violence and dislocation in which he lived.
“Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning my vineyard.”
We begin with a love song. It is easy to forget this is a love song by the time you get to the end, with all of the trampling, devouring, and desolation.
This oracle of doom takes place in a love song. Perhaps it is Isaiah’s way of reminding his hearers that despite their current situation, they are still characters in a love story with God. The collapse of the Jerusalem economy in no way impacts God’s love and concern for Israel.
The owner of the vineyard puts love and care and back-breaking labor into this vineyard. Digging and clearing a field, investing in choice vines and the infrastructure needed to make wine are all signs of the owner’s love and of his hope for a future of prosperity.
As evidenced by the wild bitter grapes, there is clearly only so much that the owner can do to affect the harvest. What else, he asks, was there for him to do for the vineyard that he had not already done?
With that, Isaiah calls the hearers of his message to make their own judgment. If the owner of the vineyard had done everything he could do, who is left to pick up the blame but the plants themselves? “For the vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting.
While this tactic does have the unpleasant side effect of kicking people who are already down—“Yes, you are in exile and let me also point out that the fault is yours”. 
It also serves to reassure the people that they aren’t where they are because God has abandoned them. God did not change his mind and get a new people. “You want to know who to blame for this mess you’re in?”, God seems to be asking them, “here’s a mirror.”
When you are in the midst of crisis, it helps to take stock of your responsibility, your agency. When you feel you’re hanging on by a thread, it can be helpful to figure out which part of the problem is within your control. What role did you play in getting here and what can you do, now, to get through the day.
In light of the world falling apart around him, Isaiah is wise enough to suggest that our response to God matters. God expects a right response to the love, care, and work that God has put into the people. “He looked for justice but saw bloodshed. He listened for righteousness but heard a cry of oppression,” is another translation of verse 7.
While the Israelites can’t immediately change the reality of the crisis, they can start paying attention to justice and righteousness. They can take control of their own behavior. They can turn back to God.
Notice that nowhere in this parable are people invited to assign blame to someone other than themselves. I know that Isaiah wasn’t writing about our news headlines, exactly. But consider how much time has been spent in the ‘blame game’ in the current media. 
But Isaiah is having none of that. He doesn’t want to hear any excuses Jerusalem might have to explain its role in the exile. The vineyard didn’t produce bad grapes because of any external factor.
He calls on them to acknowledge their role and to move toward a better relationship with the God who loves them, who created them, who planted and watered and protected them.
It makes me think, "What kind of fruit are we producing?"
Righteousness and justice?
Or bloodshed and oppression?
The story we read in Matthew today suggests that Jesus was asking the same question in the Temple as Isaiah had asked. As the religious leaders are asking Jesus about authority, Jesus answers their question with a whole different premise. Using the Isaiah text to start out his parable, he begins. “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower…”
Sound familiar?
You can almost see the audience acting like eager school children around him, wanting to impress the teacher. “Pick me! Pick me! I know this one. It’s from Isaiah. We’re supposed to be good grapes! Good grapes! Not nasty wild grapes!
But then the story changes, as Jesus’ stories are wont to do.
God, the owner of the vineyard becomes an absentee landlord. All of the hands go down. “Nevermind. I thought I knew where he was going with this,” they think to themselves. “But why would God be a landlord? All the peasants I know who work for a landlord all the live-long day, don’t have one good thing to say about them. They take every penny earned and they the peasants end up with nothing to show for it. Why would he possibly equate God to a landlord?
Jesus is okay with our discomfort when God does not behave as we think God should, and Jesus goes on with his adapted vineyard story. Landlord sends slaves to collect the harvest, but the slaves are killed. So he sends more slaves. Same thing. Then the landlord sends his only begotten son.
Hmmm…why does that sound familiar?
Oh yeah, Jesus.
Now it takes an even bigger twist. Because the tenants decide that by killing the heir, they will become the new heirs.
Now where does that ever work out? Any economic system you know of?
The tenants on this vineyard seem to be operating on a false assumption. This land is not theirs. The harvest is not theirs. The labor is not even theirs.
And Jesus, like Isaiah, calls the priests in the temple to pronounce judgment on themselves. “Now, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
They answer: “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”
I think their answer is mostly correct. Their answer acknowledges that the next people on that land will also not be the heirs. The mistaken assumption of the wicked tenants—that they could kill the heir and then inherit—is done away with.
And I think they are correct that the new tenants will be people who will hand over the produce at harvest. Because I think this is where Jesus is answering the questions about authority.
You can ask me about authority all day long”, says Jesus, “but let’s talk about your obedience to God’s authority. You walk around this Temple as if you own the place. Who made you the heir?”
It scares me, this Jesus.
And then he starts quoting scripture. “Have you never read in the scriptures?” he asks the people who read scripture professionally. This is angry Jesus.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone….therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.”


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle A)
 October 1, 2017

The Humble Path: Scott Hahn Reflection

Reading I: Ezekiel 18:25-28   Since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed,
                                                             he shall surely live, he shall not die
Responsorial Psalm: 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9   Remember your mercies, O Lord.
                                                                                    becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Gospel: Matthew 21:28-32  Which of the two did his father's will?"

Echoing the complaint heard in last week’s readings, this Sunday's First Reading again presents protests that God isn’t fair. Why does He punish with death one who begins in virtue but falls into iniquity, while granting life to the wicked one who turns from sin?
This is the question that Jesus takes up in the parable in today’s Gospel.
The first son represents the most heinous sinners of Jesus’ day—tax collectors and prostitutes—who by their sin at first refuse to serve in the Lord’s vineyard, the kingdom. At the preaching of John the Baptist, they repented and did what is right and just. The second son represents Israel’s leaders – who said they would serve God in the vineyard, but refused to believe John when he told them they must produce good fruits as evidence of their repentance (see Matthew 3:8).
Once again, this week’s readings invite us to ponder the unfathomable ways of God’s justice and mercy. He teaches His ways only to the humble, as we sing in today’s Psalm. And in the Epistle, Paul presents Jesus as the model of that humility by which we come to know life’s true path.
In Paul's letter to the Philippians he sings a beautiful hymn to the Incarnation. Unlike Adam, the first man, who in his pride grasped at being God, the New Adam, Jesus, humbled himself to become a slave, obedient even unto death on the Cross (see Romans 5:14). In this He has shown sinners—each one of us—the way back to the Father. We can only come to God, to serve in His vineyard, the Church, by having that same attitude as Christ.
This is what Israel’s leaders lacked. In their vainglory, they presumed their superiority—that they had no further need to hear God’s Word or God’s servants.
But this is the way to death, as God tells Ezekiel today. We are always to be emptying ourselves, seeking forgiveness for our sins and frailties, confessing on bended knee that He is Lord, to the glory of the Father.
Reading I: Ezekiel 18:25-28   [if] he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life;
Responsorial Psalm: 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9    Remember your mercies, O Lord.
He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross      

.. . . . . AND. . . . .

at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord

Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory;
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves

Which of the two did his father's will?"

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."