Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time


September 25, 2011
Ezekiel 18:25-28; Psalm 25; Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 21:28-32

          Last week we heard Isaiah and Jesus telling us that God’s justice is not like human justice. This week Jesus and Ezekiel tell us God does want human fairness and integrity after all. To illustrate this, Jesus presents a story of a man with two sons who are asked to go out into the vineyard and work today. The first son says "no" but later changes his mind and obeys the father's wish; the second son says "of course I'll do it" and never gets around to carrying it out.
          Jesus is equating this story to a religious problem of his day, that of tax collectors and prostitutes being welcomed into the kingdom of God before the religious authorities. The sinners are the ones who originally say "no" because they choose to do what is more conducive to their demands of life; the chief priests and elders say "yes" but their actions do not represent the positive choices they have declared. In other words, their words are actions are far removed from the will of God - even if they are teaching such things in God's name.
          The honesty of the first son is healthy. I admire his freedom. I have often found myself wanting to say "no" immediately but I end up saying "yes." He is honest about not wanting to go into the vineyard to work for his father. He is clear about wanting to do something else instead. There's nothing wrong about saying what you want or don't want, however it does not have to be the last word. People's choices evolve. Perhaps he changes his mind because of his relationship with his dad. Decisions like these are not made in a vacuum. We need time to sift through our deliberations regardless of whether we are introverts or extroverts. We consider the process, relationships, and goals. Tax collectors and prostitutes changed their minds when they heard of the righteousness John the Baptist spoke about; the chief priests and elders, hearing the same words, would not let their hearts be touched.
          We always have to keep out hearts open to life's opportunities. Closing down within ourselves serves no one and never brings a person happiness. Look at the father in this story. He makes the same invitation to both sons and only one is honest with him. The dad makes the same offer and holds out hope that both will accept it, and he allows for free choice to guide their decisions. God does not act by force or coercion and we know from experience that it is better to respond affirmatively to God's invitations because we can trust that God is acting for our well-being, even if we initially don't want what God wants for us. God only wants to give us good things. The more we open ourselves to God's desires, the happier we will be because we will inherit the best things in life.
          Jesus was our best example of someone being open to God's will. Paul encourages us to have the same attitude of Christ who didn't consider being God as something to be grasped because he was content to take on our human condition. Rather, Paul asks us to do nothing out of selfishness (which is not the same as expressing self-interest), but to look out for the interests of others as you would look after your own interests. When we act like the first son who considers the father's request and changes his mind, we put the interests of another before our own. Somehow we can see our choices more clearly and a flip switches on inside of us to guide us to make the right decision. Good things await us when we know what we want and have enough gumption to put our interests aside for another person's needs. We become more like Christ who became more like God.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In Zechariah, the Lord declares his envy for Zion. He will return to her and dwell within Jerusalem to be their God. Many people will see Jerusalem's righteousness and fidelity and will be drawn to the city to implore the favor of the Lord. People of every nationality will burn with desire to be near the Lord. In Nehemiah, King Artaxerxes grants his request to take leave to rebuild the holy city in Judah. After mustering financial support, Nehemiah is granted permission. In Baruch, exiles during the Babylonian captivity pray for mercy as they realize how badly they have sinned because they did not heed the voice of God. The Lord addresses his wayward people saying that all the sins they committed against him can be blotted out when they turn ten times the more to God. The Lord will bring them back and give you enduring joy.

Gospel: Jesus settles the argument among the disciples about which of them is the greatest by calling a child to his side and elevating the least among them as the greatest. The disciple John reports that he tries to stop someone from casting out demons in the name of Jesus; Jesus says to let him be. Knowing his last days are coming, Jesus journeys resolutely to Jerusalem. On the way, he stops in a village that will not receive him. He must move on. Along the way someone joins him and says, "I will follow you wherever you go," and Jesus tells them that the Son of Man has no place to rest his head. As more village rejections come, Jesus blasts the inhospitable words of the people. He declares that a fate worse that Sodom and Gomorrah will come upon them. Jesus is greeted with good news as the seventy-two missioned disciples return with reports of many demons exorcised because of his name. Jesus thanks the Father that many people are believing in the will of God.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Cosmas and Damian, martyrs (d. 287), were twins who became doctors. They were noted because they never charged anyone a medical fee. They died in the Diocletian persecution. Great miracles have been attributed to them and the Emperor Justinian is claimed to be healed through their intercession.

Tuesday: Vincent de Paul, priest (1581-1660), was a French peasant who selected to be chaplain at the Queen's household after his ordination. He provided food and clothing to the poor, including prostitutes, the sick, disabled, and homeless. He founded the Congregation of Missions (Vincentians) to preach and train clergy and he co-founded the Daughters of Charity with Louise de Marillac.

Wednesday: Wenceslaus, martyr (907-929), was raised a Christian by his grandmother while his mother and brother were opposed to Christianity. His brother opposed him when he became ruler of Bohemia in 922. He introduced strict reforms that caused great dissatisfaction among nobles and political adversaries. His brother invited him to a religious ceremony where he was killed in a surprise attack.

Lawrence Ruiz and 15 companion martyrs (seventeenth century), were killed in Nagasaki, Japan during 1633 and 1637. Most of these Christians were friends of the Dominicans. Lawrence, a Filipino, was a husband and father. He and these other missionaries served the Philippines, Formosa, and Japan.

Thursday: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels are long a part of Christian and Jewish scripture. Michael is the angel who fights against evil as the head of all the angels; Gabriel announces the messiah's arrival and the births of Jesus and John the Baptist; and Raphael is a guardian angel who protects Tobias on his journey. Together, they are venerated to represent all the angels during a three-day period.

Friday: Jerome, priest and doctor (342-420), studied Greek and Latin as a young man after his baptism by Pope Liberius. He learned Hebrew when he became a monk and after ordination he studied scripture with Gregory Nazianzen in Constantinople. He became secretary to the Pope when he was asked to translate the Bible into Latin.

Saturday: Teresa of Avila, doctor (1873-1897), entered the Carmelites at age 15 and died at age 24 from tuberculosis. During her illness, Pauline, her prioress, asked her to write about her life in the convent. These stories are captured in "The Story of a Soul." He focused on her "little way" of pursuing holiness in everyday life.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Sep 25, 1617. The death of Francisco Suarez. He wrote 24 volumes on philosophy and theology. As a novice he was found to be very dull, but one of his directors suggested that he ask our Lady's help. He subsequently became a person of prodigious talent.
·         Sep 26, 1605. At Rome, Pope Paul V orally declared St Aloysius to be one of the "Blessed." The official brief appeared on October 19.
·         Sep 27, 1540. Pope Paul III signed the Bull, Regimini Militantis Ecclesiae, which established the Society of Jesus.
·         Sep 28, 1572. Fifteen Jesuits arrived in Mexico to establish the Mexican Province. They soon opened a college.
·         Sep 29, 1558. In the Gesu, Rome, and elsewhere, the Jesuits began to keep Choir, in obedience to an order from Paul IV. This practice lasted less than a year, until the pope's death in August, 1559.
·         Sep 30, 1911. President William Howard Taft visited Saint Louis University and declared the football season open.
·         Oct 1, 1546. Isabel Roser was released from her Jesuit vows by St Ignatius after eight months.