25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Today’s readings remind us that if we want to understand God’s outlook on life we need to not only understand the depths of his love and generosity, but imitate them.

In today’s First Reading we’re reminded that the Lord’s thoughts and ways are miles above our own. He is always close to us, just like a loving parent whom we can always call. He is not just close to the just, but to “scoundrels” as well, ready to help them turn away from their evil ways and thoughts. He is generous in forgiving. Pope Francis on more than one occasion has reminded us that the Lord never tires of forgiving us; rather, we tire of seeking his forgiveness. He will forgive anything for which we are truly sorry. Anything. It’s our limited human attitudes on love and generosity that make us doubt that sometimes.

In today’s Second Reading St. Paul reminds us that the generosity of Christ is not just something to admire, but to imitate. Paul had every right to hope for a heavenly reward at the end of his life: being with Christ. He longed for it. However, he also knew his flock still needed him. He still had work to do on earth. His flock can show gratitude for him “putting off” Heaven for their benefit: by showing that his generosity was worth it. The way we show Our Lord that his generosity was worth it is by conducting ourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ, just as Paul encourages his flock to do today.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that it doesn’t matter when we start to help to extend the Kingdom of heaven, but that we extend it. We’ll be rewarded fairly, even generously, for our labors, and we shouldn’t fall into envy if it seems someone has had an easier time of it or came late to the party. In Jesus’ time a day’s wage was exactly that: it enabled the worker to live for a day. There was not much surplus wealth, and charging someone interest for borrowing something was a sin known as usury. The workers who came late to the vineyard needed a full day’s wage in order to provide for themselves and for their families. Anyone who is trying to support their family through a part time job knows it is not the same as a full-time job.

The landowner is helping people who really need it. An attitude of envy sees someone else’s gain as our loss. We should be thankful for the ability to earn a living for ourselves and our families, and be grateful when someone else in difficulty receives a little help too. We’ve all been the recipients of a disproportionate love and generosity on the Lord’s part, no matter how long we’ve served and followed him. The grace of our salvation, which we receive at baptism, was not merited by us in any way whatsoever. Most of us were drooling, happy infants when our parents brought us to the baptismal font. The workers hired in today’s Gospel weren’t entitled to getting work, no matter what time of day they started working.

Sometimes we think the Lord must be very measured and calculating in his generosity, but nothing is farther from the truth. He is constantly trying to be generous in our regard. We don’t see it sometimes because his generosity is rebuffed. His generosity is not conditioned by our actions or selfishness. If we really want to share Our Lord’s outlook we need to show that same liberality in our generosity. Commit one senseless act of kindness this week. Don’t condition it by what outcome you foresee, whether the recipient deserves it or appreciates it. It’s not an investment; give expecting nothing in return.

Readings: Isaiah 55:6–9; Psalm 145:2–3, 8–9, 17–18; Philippians 1:20c–24, 27a; Matthew 20:1–16a.

24th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year I

In today’s Gospel the Lord has pity on the widow of Nain and raises her young son from the dead. There are abundant reasons for compassion toward the poor widow. The Old Testament is full of exhortations to not exploit widows and orphans; widows were in a very vulnerable situation, and even more so without children to help them. The Promised Land for the Jews was also linked to heritage; your line determined your tribe and your right to a portion of the Promised Land, and the widow’s birthright without a son would die with her.

The pain a parent experiences at having to bury a child is beyond words. We can wonder if Our Lord looked upon her in her grief and imagined the pain his own mother would soon experience as he was taken down, lifeless, from the cross at Calvary. The Blessed Mother couldn’t be spared this sorrow, but this poor woman could. Finally, Our Lord took pity on everyone who witnessed this scene. Death was the ultimate source of hopelessness. In his earthly life Our Lord did not raise many from the dead, and it was the raising of Lazarus in John’s Gospel that signaled the final decision of the Sanhedrin to kill Jesus (see John 12:9-10). If word spread like wildfire of this miracle it was because death was revealed to not be the last word.

This miracle was the crack of dawn of what would soon blaze in the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. Death no longer has the last word. Let’s strive to be compassionate toward others, especially those who have lost a loved one, and encourage them with the certainty that, thanks to Christ, death does not have the last word.

Readings: 1 Timothy 3:1–13; Psalm 101:1b–3b, 5–6; 7:11–17.


24th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year I

In Luke’s account of Our Lord healing the Centurion’s servant it’s interesting to note that Jesus and the Centurion never met personally. Everything was done through men of good will (the elders of the Jews, who acknowledged the Centurions good will and kindness in helping them build their synagogue), and the Centurion’s friends, who came to meet Jesus even as he was about arrive at the Centurion’s home. This last detail also shows the good will and respect of the Centurion: devout Jews would consider themselves ritually defiled if they entered the home of a Gentile.

Nevertheless, it was Our Lord alone who could help the Centurion’s servant. As the First Reading reminds us today, God wants everyone to be saved and to learn the truth, but he wants to do it through the Son, the one mediator between God and men. In this moment of his ministry Our Lord was focusing on the Jews, but, one day, another Centurion would receive baptism along with his family (see Acts 10:1-48), the first Gentiles to be welcomed into the budding Church after an initial focus on the Jews.

Friendship and good-will may not always help others to connect with Our Lord, but they certainly go a long way toward bringing others closer to Christ. Let’s not shy away from sharing our best friend with others and helping them make a connection of faith.

Readings: 1 Timothy 2:1–8; Psalm 28:2, 7–9; Luke 7:1–10. See also 12th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday and 24th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, Year II.

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Today’s readings remind us that if we want mercy we should show it, just as we should expect justice for ourselves if we demand it from others. In today’s First Reading we’re reminded that we must forgive the injustice of our neighbor if we don’t want to be consumed by a sinful wrath that will cause our own condemnation. We have all experienced the temptation to nurse a grudge against someone and to be too angry to forgive them for what they’ve done. Sirach reminds us today not only of the penalty for that attitude, but of the danger. If we hold on to anger, wrath, or a desire for vengeance, we shut the door of our hearts not only on the object of our wrath, but on God himself. That ire cooks us on the inside. The Lord respects our freedom, but doesn’t turn a blind eye to anyone’s injustice. A desire for vengeance and a desire for justice are not the same thing, just as a vigilante is not the same thing as a police officer.

In today’s Second Reading St. Paul reminds us that, thanks to the mercy of our redemption, we’ve ceded certain rights in our lives over to our Redeemer. Our Lord died for us, but he lives as well, and we share in that. In his mercy he took the demands of justice upon himself for our behalf. If we turn our backs on mercy we spurn the mercy we’ve received and risk closing ourselves off from the eternal life Christ won for us. We have been forgiven much more than anything someone else may have done to us.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reinforces one of the petitions we pray in the Lord’s Prayer: we ask for forgiveness, but should forgive in turn. Peter asks Our Lord to quantify when enough is enough in terms of forgiving someone. He wants to put a number on it. Our Lord’s response, due to the original Greek, is either seventy-seven (77) or four hundred ninety times (7 x 7 x 7 x 7 x 7 x 7 x 7 x…): in short, a lot. However, he follows up with a parable that shows we must be unlimited in our mercy.

The servant owed so much (10,000 talents in the original Greek, the equivalent wages of 160,000 years of labor) that not only was his freedom and property forfeit, but that of his entire family as well. With no freedom and no “capital” he’d never be able to repay his debt. The king in today’s Gospel, like the Lord, forgave the whole debt. Everything the servant deserved to lose, he retained, due to the king’s mercy, even though he’d squandered so much. How does the servant respond? He decides to turn a new leaf in life by becoming a loan shark collecting on his old debts. The amount his fellow servant owed him was infinitesimal (one percent) compared to what he’d just been forgiven.His repentance was shown to be short lived.

When we are struggling to forgive someone, or to love someone, we are always tempted to say, “enough is enough.” We ask ourselves whether there’s a fixed rule of thumb, as Peter tried to do today, for limiting our mercy. Our Lord teaches us that “How much is enough?” is the wrong question. The right question is, “Am I going to squander the mercy I’ve received by not showing mercy to others?” The servant was forgiven, and he squandered that forgiveness by not forgiving in return; note that when the king hears of it, only the servant himself is punished, and in a worse way. When someone doesn’t value mercy they not only don’t welcome it into their hearts, but are also unlikely to show much of it to others. When we have wronged someone we want to be forgiven, but we should show our gratitude by forgiving those who trespass against us.

We’ve received a priceless gift of mercy through faith and Baptism. We can never repay that debt. When someone wrongs us, we must remember that no matter how much they’ve wronged us it’s nothing compared to how much the Lord has forgiven us and continues to forgive us. Let’s forgive our brothers and sisters from the heart.

Readings: Sirach 27:30–28:7; Psalm 103:1–4, 9–12; Romans 14:7–9; Matthew 18:21–35.

23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year I

In today’s First Reading it seems Paul is addressing an implied misconception of Our Lord that he is just another powerful spiritual being among many, perhaps according to some hierarchy of angels in which the Colossians believed. Paul is very clear: “in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily.” Jesus Christ is God. In today’s Gospel the Lord is healing people with a touch and driving out demons effortlessly. People are flocking to him just to touch him and be healed.

The First Reading also reminds us that we have not just been taught by Christ, but, through the sacraments, we participate in his very life, including the most important events of his earthly life: his death and resurrection. He took our condemnation upon himself and when we share in his life, that condemnation is obliterated for us too.

Our Lord, through the sacraments, continues to give us an opportunity to be touched by him and healed. Let’s take advantage of every opportunity to draw closer to him.

Readings: Colossians 2:6–15; Psalm 145:1b–2, 8–11; Luke 6:12–19. See also 2nd Week in Ordinary Time, Friday14th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday and Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles.