In the Gospel for the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus denounces the scribes and Pharisees for their pride.  He teaches his disciples about humility.  “The greatest among you must be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23: 11-12).  A humble person knows that all good comes from God and acts accordingly.  Christians thank God for all their blessings: family, health, possessions, and much more.  Inspired by the incredible loving generosity of God, Christians share themselves and what they have with others.  Parents share their lives with their children.  Healthcare workers share their medical skills with the sick.  Neighbors share meals with grief stricken neighbors.  Concerned citizens share their time by advocating for legislation that benefits the working poor, homeless veterans, hungry single-parent families, undocumented migrants, and others in need.  How do you humbly serve others?

 

 

 

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In the Gospel for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus answers the Pharisees’ question about paying taxes.  “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: 20-21).  Jesus answers his inquisitors that God’s claim on them is greater than  the state’s.  His answer makes me wonder what has a greater claim on me.  Do I trust more in God’s providence more than in my government’s protection?  In my paycheck or possessions?  In myself?  A heart enamored with possessions begets selfishness.  A heart full of gratitude for God’s overwhelming generosity inspires loving care for others.  To whom or what do you belong?

 

In the Gospel for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the Parable of the Marriage Feast.  Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a king who hosted a wedding feast for his son.  Since none of the invited guests showed up, he invited people from the streets.  “But 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 22: 11-14).  The king treats this guest harshly.  Following Jesus demands more than accepting his invitation.  Christian conversion is a life long process requiring perseverance and dedication.  With God’s grace, we can accept the invitation daily.  How are your responding to God’s invitation today?

 

In the Gospel for the Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the parable of the two sons.  One refuses to work in the vineyard for his father.  Then he changes his mind.  The other says “yes” and never does.  “[Jesus asks the chief priests and elders] ‘Which of the two did his father’s will?’  They answered, ‘The first.’  Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you’ ” (Matthew 21: 31).  The first son is like the public sinners who know they need repentance.  The second, the faith leaders who think they are righteous already.  I used to feel self righteous about being Catholic.  I did not need to know Jesus as my personal savior.  Pope Francis encourages all Catholics to have a personal encounter with Jesus.  We all need God’s mercy, Catholic or not.  When have you felt self-righteous?  When have you recognized your need for God’s mercy?

 

In the Gospel for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.  “When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’  When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage” (Matthew 20: 8-10).    I sympathize with the grumblers who worked all day and got the same pay.  I think God owes me for being a good Catholic all my life.  Why should God have mercy on those who are less faithful?  This reversal of fortunes parable illustrates God’s generosity especially to the needy.  God provides me and everyone what we need.  How has God been generous to you in your time of need?  How have you been generous to others in need?

In the Gospel for the Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus teaches his disciples about forgiveness.  “Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?  As many as seven times?’  Jesus answered, ‘I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times’ ” (Matthew 18: 21-22).   Feeling pretty generous, Peter suggests forgiving others four more times than the current religious practice.  Jesus tells him to be as generous in forgiveness as God is generous.  Then Jesus tells the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.  His master forgave him a huge debt.  He refused to forgive his servant a smaller debt.  Jesus makes it pretty clear that forgiveness is an essential part of the Christian life.  Forgiveness of ourselves and others acknowledges our dependence on God, deepens our compassion for ourselves and others when we respond in an unloving way to life’s struggles, and empowers us to try to love again.  How generous are you with your forgiveness?  How has God helped you to forgive?

In the Gospel for the Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time,  Jesus advises his disciples about making decisions.  “Amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18: 19-20).   After months considering all the pros and cons, consulting with mentors and friends, praying for wisdom, and checking my heart,  I decided to propose to my wife.  Ultimately I trusted in God present in our agreement of love.  When you made a major decision, how was God present to you in other people?

 

In the Gospel for the Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells his disciples there is great suffering ahead for him.  Peter tells Jesus he is talking nonsense.  Jesus replies.  “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16: 24-25).  Self denial is submission to God’s will.  Following the example of Jesus means giving of oneself – one’s life – for others.  Doing what God wants often means forgoing what we want.  Sleeping parents wake up in the middle of the night to feed their infant child.  A senior citizen on a fixed income shopping at a discount store makes a donation to Red Cross hurricane relief.  How do you deny yourself – do God’s will – for others?

In the Gospel for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Peter confesses his faith in Jesus as the Christ.  Jesus commissions Peter.  “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”  (Matthew 16: 19).  Jesus promises Peter that God shall bind and loose what he binds and looses.  Jesus confers authority to him in making decisions for the disciples.  By virtue of Baptism, Christians share in this authority to make decisions.  Every day I am authorized by God to love myself and others as Jesus loves us.  I have to decide to do the loving thing.  Dismiss the reports of natural disasters as news coverage?  Or pray for those who are devastated?  Ignore an addicted family member?  Or show some care?  Retaliate when criticized?  Or respond with honesty and compassion?  Christ wants us to decide for the common good.  When have you bound and loosed for love of God?  When have you not?

 

 

In the Gospel for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus heals the possessed daughter of a Canaanite woman.  Since the woman is not a Jew, he is reluctant to heal her daughter.  ” ‘It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.’  [She persists.].  ‘Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.’  Then Jesus said to her in reply,  ‘O woman, great is your faith!   Let it be done for you as you wish.’  And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour” (Matthew 15: 26-28).  The Canaanite woman believed without a doubt in God’s generous and merciful love for everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike.  She knew God had enough love to go around for everyone.  She refused to accept that she and her daughter were unworthy of God’s love.  She inspires my confidence in God’s unconditional love for me.  She reminds me that God loves others I may consider unworthy.  How have you experienced God’s unconditional love?  How have you shared this love with others?