Peace and grace to you!
In the first reading from the book of Exodus a set of do’s and don’t’s is established so that the Israelites may understand that God loves all people. And as God’s chosen people, these basic rules will guide them in manifesting God’s love in their day-to-day affairs with each other and with foreigners.
In the Gospel, Jesus talks about love too. When he says love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, he is indicating that there are in fact different levels of love. The basic rule set forth in the first reading is the minimal level but it is foundational because it assures mutuality and fidelity in fairness. Rising from that is another level in which the lover is not satisfied with the minimum but desires to do more for the other person to show greater love and concern.
There is another level beyond the first two. It goes beyond reason or logic. It seeks to give itself away entirely for the good of the other. Some people do not understand this level of love. I am glad to say that I have experienced this kind of love between people. I think that for many of them, they don’t realize they have this depth of love until a situation arises in which they choose to give themselves in this way.
Lastly, there are those disciples who have turned to God and given themselves completely to him in religious vocations through the priesthood or religious life. Their life focus is an imitation of Jesus and Mother Mary who loved God above all and served God’s will perfectly, especially in teaching and humble service to those in need. These are good examples of different levels of human love that reflect divine love but the most perfect love that we know is Jesus’ love for all of us. He emptied himself and became a slave, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross so that we might be free from sin.
In today’s Gospel Jesus links love for God to love of neighbor because all love begins in God and finds its way of expression in loving our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. For some of us, learning to love ourselves the way God wants us to love ourselves opens the door to loving God and our neighbor in deeper, better ways. Ask Jesus to help you!
May God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter
Peace and Grace to all of you!
In the first reading, King Cyrus is overtaking the Babylonian kingdom under Nebuchadnezzar who took the Israelites captive about 60 years before. Cyrus, a pagan, is well disposed toward the Jewish people. The prophet Isaiah points out that it is God who establishes kings and kingdoms of the earth even though the kings and armies may be unaware of it. In the Gospel, Jesus is questioned in regard to the idea of paying taxes and citizenship under the pagan, Roman Empire. His response is that we, as Christians, possess a dual citizenship. We live in two worlds: we are citizens of earth and citizens of heaven. We are obligated to lead by example in the world so the world can experience the salvation that our faith brings to all people. Christians keep in mind that their true home is in heaven, in the meantime, we are united to Christ in this effort, it is our mission!
As Americans we support a government built upon faith in God and a democratic process. We know that there will always be tensions between different political parties and faith communities. We know that there will always be laws and policies that do not reflect our values as Catholic Christians. Does that mean that we should write it all off? Does it mean that we should rebel? According to the wisdom of Jesus, we should value the rule of law for the stability and peace that are necessary for society. If we, as good stewards, are going to grow and build the kingdom of heaven on earth, we should use everything within our power as good citizens through reasonable tax support and use our voices through the polls where we vote. We also MUST be involved in local structures such as school boards and city council. As Christians, we bring Gospel values to everything; not hatred, anger, greed, corruption and destruction.
Remember, even one vote can make a big difference. According to Mark Link, S.J., one vote can be monumental! Here are some examples: Had it not been for 1 vote in 1776, the official language of the United States would be German instead of English. Had it not been for 1 vote in 1868, the state of Texas would not have become part of the United States. In 1645, 1 vote placed Oliver Cromwell in control over all of England. In 1649, 1 vote sent Charles I of England to execution. France became a republic in 1875 because of 1 vote. By 1 vote Adolf Hitler became the leader of the Nazi party in Germany. Just think, 1 vote could have saved millions of lives and perhaps delivered our world from the deep scar of WWII! Jesus reminds us that while we live on earth, we should try to bring Gospel values into our sphere of influence because the Gospel does bring life, peace, liberty and justice for all. This is our mission and we are the messengers of good news!
God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter
Peace and grace to all!
The parable of the wedding feast reminds us that the kingdom of heaven is primarily an invitation from God and it is open to all people; not just a particular group of “chosen ones.” This is good news! It underlines our awareness of God’s love for all people and all creation.
The invitation extended to us from God in the context of a wedding feast suggests a special joy, an excitement, an anticipation of a future full of new hopes, enrichment and possibilities! It reminds us of God’s protection, blessing and providence. God is lovingly present to each of us personally every moment. God is mindful of all that we need. Mindfulness on our part is watching for the ways that God is actively being a part of our everyday lives. It means noticing the hundred little things that fall into place or noticing that things could have been a lot more difficult or worse of God wasn’t there, almost imperceptibly, helping us each day. Prayer is the conversation we have with God many times a day. These are the moments when stewards and disciples consciously recognize God’s presence and activity and they give thanks for the help and make known desires and hopes—its a real relationship of love!
This parable also reminds us of the wedding feast of the Mass! For Christians, Sunday Mass is a Holy Day of Obligation in which we remember how he gave of himself completely for our sakes—and he still does! His is an undying, endless love! The right clothing represents those disciples and stewards who come before God to give thanks and offer a return for his many gifts. Suitable attire for this event means being clothed entirely in a way of life that honors and reverences God above all things and reflects the teaching of the Church. The Church identifies this inner disposition as charity: love of God and of neighbor. If we have hate, anger, harsh judgement, grudges or anything of that sort, then we are present in body only and we are unfit to receive Communion because we are not in a state of grace. The sacrament of Penance is required in this situation for healing and restoration of the true spiritual disposition we are called to. Let’s always be appropriately dressed for such a great event!
God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter
Peace and grace to all!
This weekend’s readings help us to grasp a biblical view of God. I say “biblical view” because the biblical view is sometimes a contrast to our own humanistic view of God which is what is depicted in the parable told by Jesus. The vineyard stands for the people of Israel. The vineyard owner stands for God. The tenants stand for the chief priests and Pharisees that God set in place to guide his people. The servants in the first group that were sent to receive a share of the grapes were the early prophets; the second group was the later prophets. The owner’s son who was killed is Jesus. The new tenants are the Apostles of Jesus and they replace the chief priests and Pharisees as the new leaders of God’s people. From the story Jesus tells, we understand that God is patient and understanding and that God is a just and fair judge. We are encouraged to ask ourselves a question: is the new model immune from the same type of faults depicted in the story by the first tenants? We all know the answer to that is– NO. As God’s people, we will always struggle with our differences of opinion and different ideas about God and the Church. Even Jesus’ closest companions didn’t always understand him! Even so, as disciples of Jesus we know we are called beyond our own personal views to embrace something much greater.
In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul teaches us the way we can experience God’s kingdom of unity and peace. It must be well understood that Paul is a former Pharisee—completely rule oriented and a hard judge of right/wrong rules of religious practice. It is striking how much his understanding changed after he encountered Jesus. He gradually began to understand God’s plan for his people in a new and personal way. St. Paul’s conversion serves as an example of how to be a true disciple of Jesus and turn away from pettiness, politics and distractions that lead us away from the treasure of freedom, peace and joy that right faith provides. Jesus teaches us that God is first of all merciful, patient, kind, gentle and understanding then a fair and just judge second. We are asked to understand then imitate this example.
God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter