Saturday, September 27, 2014

09-28-2014 -- 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Sept. 28, 2014 - 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Sometimes we are just like those boys in the parable. We say one thing but then do something else.

Like the husband who renews his wedding vows while having an affair. He is like the second son. He has no intention of keeping the promise he is making.

Or the mother who lectures her children about the dangers of drugs but secretly drinks herself to sleep every night.

Or the boss who tells everyone they have to stay late but then leaves promptly at 5 o’clock.

Or the political leader who says she’s interested in reducing the national debt but then proceeds to increase wasteful spending.

The second son in Jesus’ parable is a hypocrite. He says one thing in public then does something completely different in private.

He is dishonest. He lies to his father’s face. He says what he thinks his father wants to hear, but has no intention of keeping his word. He goes off and does whatever he wants.

He is a slick talker who has no integrity. He says all the right things but never follows through.

If he changes it is not for the better. He goes from bad to worse.

Now the first son is no angel. He is rebellious and disobedient. He too is guilty of sin.

But after thinking about it, he changes his mind. He returns to fulfill his responsibility. He changes from bad to good.

At the end of the parable Jesus asks, “Who did the will of the father?”

The answer is obvious: the first son because he eventually did what was asked of him.

Yes, there was a contradiction between his words and his actions. But at the end of the day, his actions speak louder than his words. He eventually comes around and does the right thing.

Jesus sets before us these two sons and two choices. We can choose virtue, choosing to do the right thing or we can choose to continue living a life of wickedness.

In the first reading we are told that those who choose wickedness will die. Sin leads to death.

And we are also told that those who choose virtue will surely live.

Those who choose virtue are self-giving. They learn to do what St. Paul asks of us in the second reading.

They humbly regard others as more important than themselves. They are generous and kind and loving.

We are called, then, to move beyond saying one thing and doing another, to living our lives with more honesty and integrity.

We are called to do what the Lord God asks of us, to be more generous in giving of ourselves to serve our brothers and sisters, to serve this faith community, to serve the larger community.

We are called to let our actions speak louder than our words.

We are called to be like the first son, to turn from our sinful ways to do what is right and just and good.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

09-21-2014 -- 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Sept. 21, 2014 - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Kingdom of God is not like the Kingdoms of the earth. In God’s Kingdom those who are powerful and influential do not get more.

God’s arithmetic is different. It is not like ours. In God’s Kingdom what is added up is mercy and compassion, forgiveness and generosity.

In God’s Kingdom, envy of the good fortune of others is disappointing. Complaining about the labors of a day’s work is unbecoming. And the strong who exploit the weak are unjust.

In the Gospel the workers grumble and complain because they think they deserve more. They think they should get something extra.

They are jealous of what others have been given. They are not satisfied with what they have.

Jesus, the Son of God, speaks Almighty God’s response:

My dear children, I am not cheating you. I have created you and I love you.

You agreed with me for the usual daily wage, did you not? I have given that to you. Take what I have given and go. Do not be greedy. Be satisfied with what you have.

I am free to do with my creation as I wish. Are you envious because I am generous?

Isaiah, the Prophet of God, speaks Almighty God’s response:

My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways. You are jealous and petty and envious. I am generous and loving and forgiving.

And we are. We are jealous and petty and envious.

We are jealous, and our jealousy makes us bitter. We are envious and our envy will destroy us. We are petty and our pettiness strains our relationships with others.

But have been challenged to stop comparing ourselves to others.

God made me me. He made no one else just like me. And he gave me gifts and talents that make me special and unique.

God has done that for you too.

Do we take the time to realize just how generous God has been to us? Or do we constantly compare ourselves to others so that we come to believe, falsely, that we don’t measure up.

Do we focus on the gifts and blessings God has given to us? Or are we too busy being jealous of the gifts God has given to others?

Our scriptures set before us two choices:

One is the way of the world. Our ways. We can be petty and envious, greedy and jealous. This leads to grumbling and complaining.

The other is God’s way. It is a more difficult way. It is a way filled with self-giving and generosity. It is a way that leads to contentment, to justice and peace.

If we seek the Lord as Isaiah suggests, we can experience God’s generous kindness and merciful forgiveness.

We can recognize the blessing and generosity we have received.

And instead of grumbling and complaining, we can turn to the Lord with hearts full of thankfulness, gratitude and praise.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

09-07-2014 -- 23 Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

September 7, 2014 - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

It is inevitable that conflicts will arise among those who live and work together. Living in harmony with the people closest to us can be difficult.

Married couples, parents and children, employers and employees face difficulties. Tensions arise. Relationships are broken by cruel acts, betrayal, harsh words, bitter sarcasm or sulking silence.

Our scripture readings this weekend call us, no, challenge us, to work to heal those broken relationships.

In the gospel, Jesus actually gives us a plan of attack.

He says we should always begin with a one on one. We should sit down and calmly try to talk through the difficulties. This is challenging even for those of us who are good communicators.

If this works, the relationship is healed and restored. But we must be careful, because Jesus says winning your brother or sister over does not mean gloating or having to be right all the time.

Winning your brother or sister over means coming together to heal the rift, to settle the difference, to bring about peace.

If this doesn’t work then a few witnesses or a counselor or someone good at reconciliation should be brought in to try to mediate.

Going to see a counselor or a spiritual director is not a sign of weakness, nor is it a sign of failure.

It is a sign that both parties in the conflict are willing to get help. It is a recognition that the relationship is valued enough that an effort will be made to save it.

A counselor or spiritual director can help keep both sides from being unreasonable and digging their heels in when it isn’t necessary. Again, if this works, the relationship is healed and restored.

If it doesn’t, then the larger community may be brought in to bring together the warring factions. This tends to take the form of mediation or some other more formal procedure.

Our Holy Father often tries to broker peace between enemies.

In Jesus’ teachings there is a call for reconciliation, a call for peace, a call for living together in harmony.

Saint Paul affirms this in the second reading when he says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no evil to the neighbor.”

This can be a tall order for us because we live in a sue-happy society. If we can’t get our way, we seek legal remedy. We dig in our heels, insist that we are right, yell and scream or pout and sulk until we get our way.

Jesus says, “When two or three come together in my name, I am there.” Jesus’ desire is for those who are in broken relationships to come together again, to reach an agreement, to come to a place of peace.

And Jesus promises to be with us when we come together. He is breaking down the barriers between us and encouraging the restoration of friendship.

Relationships can be difficult, and it is inevitable that conflicts will arise among us.

But Jesus’ desire is that we come together to settle those differences so that we can live together as God’s children in peace and harmony and love.