Our Gospel this weekend is an important one for those of us who “practice” our religion, that is, those of us who go to Mass on Sundays and holydays, who don’t eat meat on Fridays in Lent, who say our morning and evening prayers, etc. Observing the “rules” is important, because all these things strengthen us to do what is really important: love others and show that love by being generous,
compassionate, and forgiving.
The danger is that we can be like the first son in our Gospel parable, who says he will do what his father asks, but then doesn’t do it. That happens if we substitute our religious practice for what God REALLY wants. When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus answers love of God and love of neighbor, and immediately adds the Good
Samaritan parable to tell us that all are our neighbors. In the Last Judgment, it is how we treated others that is important, not religious practice: when I was hungry, you gave me to eat… THAT is what we have said “yes” to, as followers of Christ. If we are performing our religious duties but not growing in our ability to be generous, loving, and forgiving to others, including those we might deem “not worthy,” we are like the first son who agrees to do what his father asks but then reneges.
Let me be clear: religious practice is essential for our Christian life. We need the graces and help that come from a strong relationship with the Lord to be able to go out of ourselves to others. We just need to make sure we are USING our religious practice to help us grow in our ability to relate to others as did Jesus, not SUBSTITUTING it for the challenge of making the needs of others a part of our life.
I invite us this week to reflect on how well we are doing at using our religious observance as a help to grow in love of God shown through love of neighbor.
Church sign of the week: You worship a homeless man on Sunday. Don’t ignore one on Monday.
Our Gospel this week is one of the most challenging for us to wrap our minds around. It is the parable of the landowner who hires workers for his vineyard and pays them all the same daily wage, though some worked 1 hour and others worked 12. Naturally, those who worked 12 hours complained, as I am sure we would also: it is not FAIR that someone who worked 1 hour be paid the same as me. After all, I worked 12 hours in the sun!
The key to understanding this parable is stated in our first reading from Isaiah: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. God sees a bigger picture and He is a
merciful, loving God. Those who worked 1 hour needed the daily wage to be able to feed their families. The merciful God was concerned that each one be able to feed his family.
This parable challenges us to be merciful, also. Would we be resentful because we lived a good life for many years and are on an equal basis with one who repented and was saved at the last moment? Or would we rejoice, as God would, that the person was saved?
Are we thankful that there are programs to support the needy in our country? Or do we complain because “I worked hard for what I have; why should they get something for nothing?”
The challenge this week is for us to reflect balancing justice with mercy. Are we strict and unbending, avid that each one get what he deserves? Or are we like God, willing to be merciful and anxious that each one get the best possible? God is very merciful and forgiving to us: we need to be the same with others.
Church sign of the week: Some people are hanging by the thinnest of threads. You just might be that thread.
Our readings this week double down on the theme of forgiving others and working for good relationships, as we reflected on this past week.
The first reading is very strong, with phrases such as, “the vengeful will suffer the Lord’s vengeance” and “could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?”
It makes no sense to hold on to wrath and anger, because it hurts us, both now and in the future. Let me explain:
NOW: when we “hug” wrath and anger, as Sirach says, we are the ones who are unhappy. We boil inside, we are not at peace. The one I am angry at is somewhere else, having a good time, but I am the one who is unhappy. It makes absolutely no sense. No one else makes us
unhappy: we do it to ourselves.
FUTURE: with the parable of the servant who is forgiven a big debt by the master but is unable to forgive a small debt of a fellow servant, Jesus is underscoring what we say every time we pray the Our Father: “forgive us our trespasses, AS WE FORGIVE those who trespass against us.” We are asking to be forgiven as we are able to forgive. If we cannot forgive, can we expect forgiveness for ourselves?
I invite us to continue reflecting this week on our ability to forgive. If there is a relationship that needs to be repaired, let us resolve to do the best we can to repair it, and then move on with peace in our hearts. God bless.
Church sign of the week: You can’t see the haters when you have the love glasses on.
Family reunions are always special so, on our Welcome Back weekend, we welcome all of you who have been part of our Pius family. Because of the community you built over the years, Pius continues as a vibrant faith community of worship and outreach.
Our readings this weekend remind us that we have a responsibility to each other in community, the responsibility to witness by the way we live our lives and to challenge each other to live the Gospel of Love.
One of the ways we live the Gospel of Love and witness to others is to be the first to work at repairing a relationship. We are all sinners, we all do things that hurt or annoy others: that is part of any relationship. An instinctual way to react is to lash out at the other person, to harbor resentment, and then bad mouth the person to others.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to act differently. He tells us to go and talk about it, but directly with the other person and try to work it out. He tells us to take actions that will restore the relationship, not actions that widen the gap caused by the original offense. It means controlling anger, swallowing righteous indignation, etc., and approaching the other person in a way that invites peace, forgiveness, and unity. And when we can do that, we are inviting the other person to grow in forgiveness and love as well. It is a win-win: everyone is happier and at peace.
I invite us this week to reflect at how well we do at being the one to reach out and repair relationships. Can I do better? And let us always remember each other in prayer, as we struggle with the need to be forgiving.
Church sign of the week: The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.