In the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent B, Jesus tells the parable of the doorkeeper waiting for the master’s return. “Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13: 33). Jesus admonishes his disciples to wait, like the doorkeeper, in constant vigilance for the reign of God. Advent looks forward in hope to the return of Jesus in glory and to the Christmas commemoration of the birth of Jesus. During Advent Christians also celebrate the presence of God everyday in our lives. It is difficult to recognize the presence of God in the time of COVID. Negative COVID test for a loved one? Food giveaways for out-of-work neighbors? Recovery of a friend from COVID? Death of a parent from COVID? What sign(s) of the presence of God do you see in this time of COVID?

In the Gospel for the the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe A, Jesus tells the story of the Judgement of the Nations. At the final judgement the Son of Man welcomes the righteous into the God’s kingdom. They practiced deeds of loving kindness for everyone, especially those in need. “Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me’ ” (Matthew 25: 37-40). What acts of loving kindness for the least do you do for God?

In the Gospel for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time A, Jesus tells the Parable of the Talents. The Servant who had one talent buried it in the backyard instead of investing it. He did not want to lose the talent while the master was gone. He was afraid of the master’s wrath upon his return. “Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back’ ” (Matthew 25: 24-25). Upon his return, the master chastised him anyway. The servant did little with his talent. I have struggled all my life with fear of making mistakes. I missed a lot of opportunities to use my God-given gifts for good. Now a senior citizen, I am not as afraid. I am using my talents as best I can in loving myself and others. When have you done something good for God, despite your fear?

In the Gospel for the Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time A, Jesus tells the Parable of the Wise Virgins. “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. [When he arrived the foolish ones had to go and buy oil. Upon their return the bridegroom would not let them in.] Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25: 1-5, 13). Jesus does not want us to wait in hypervigilance until he returns. All the virgins fell asleep. Yet, like the wise virgins, we are to be ready. I used to worry all the time about making mistakes. Jesus does not want me to worry. He wants me to live my life in loving expectation of his return. Now I try to spend more time loving others than worrying about myself. What difference does your loving expectation for Jesus’ return make in the way you treat yourself? Others?

In the Gospel for the Solemnity of All Saints, Jesus teaches the Beatitudes. “When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5: 1-3). Jesus upends the common notion of blessing. Suffering is not a punishment for sin. God loves those who suffer from poverty, grief, persecution, and more. When I suffer, I do not feel blessed. Yet I am God’s first priority when I am in need. So I am blessed. God wants us to make those in need our first priority too. Through us God blesses the widowed neighbor, unemployed friend, hungry family across town, co-worker harassed for the color of her skin, and all those in need. How do you bless those in need with God’s love?

in the Gospel for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time A, Jesus teaches the Greatest Commandment. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself: (Matthew 22: 37b-39).  Jesus connects the love of God with the love of neighbor. Love of neighbor is love of God. Mistreatment of neighbor is mistreatment of God. Jesus wants us to love everyone as God loves them: the lonely senior down the street, a mentally ill friend, an addicted relative, victims of racial violence, a family across town evicted from their home, someone with a different skin color, anyone who lost their job, and more. How shall you love your neighbor?

In the Gospel for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time A, Jesus thwarts a plot by the Pharisees and Herodians. They try to accuse him of a capital crime with his answer to a question about taxes. ” ‘Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? [If he answers “yes” he is guilty of idolatry. If “no”, sedition against the Roman government.] Knowing their malice, Jesus said, ‘Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.’ Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, ‘Whose image is this and whose inscription?’ They replied, ‘Caesar’s.’ At that he said to them, ‘Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God’ ” (Matthew 22:17-21). What in your life belongs to God? What difference does it make in the way you live your life?

In the Gospel for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time A, Jesus tells the Parable of the Royal Wedding Feast. A king gave a wedding for his son. All the invited guests refused to attend. So the king sent his servants out into the streets to invite anyone they found. “When the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matthew 21: 11-14). Like the king, Jesus invites everyone into a relationship with a loving God. Like the guest without a wedding garment, Christians must do more than show up. Following Jesus requires a moral and spiritual conversion. Christ’s urges us to change our hearts and do the things of God. Praying for conversion is not enough. Christians must also do works of mercy and justice. How are you responding to God’s invitation?

In the Gospel for the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time A, Jesus tells the Parable of the Wicked Tenants. A landowner sends his servants to gather the fruit of his vineyard. The tenants abuse them. When he sends his son, the tenants kill him. The chief priests and elders tell Jesus the owner should lease the vineyard to someone else. The religious leaders, who will reject Jesus and kill him, have indicted themselves. Jesus replies. “Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit” (Matthew 21: 43). Christians have inherited the loving promises of God. God has entrusted us to watch over the vineyard of God’s people. What are you doing to nurture the fruits of God’s love in your life and the lives of others?

In the Gospel for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time A, Jesus tells the Parable of the Two Sons. “A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘ but did not go” (Matthew 21: 28b-30). My middle son always wanted to buy something in the store. My initial response was “No”. On a visit to the video store, I said “Yes”. I gave him a quarter for the gumball machine. That gumball won us a free video. Every visit thereafter, I gave him gum money. I relate to God in the same way. I initially resist what God asks of me. Later I change my mind and do the loving thing. With which of the sons do you identify? Why?