Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Are you envious because I am generous?"

It's September 21, 2014 - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (25A)- and this Sunday's Gospel parable of the workers in the vineyard serves as a corrective to false notions of entitlement and merit. The story reflects the socio-economic background of Palestine at the time of Jesus. The parable is offensive to us and it challenges our sense of justice. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.

This may be the most puzzling of the forty parables of Jesus. It is found only in Matthew. Perhaps Mark, Luke, and John were afraid to touch it. This parable is clearly about serving the Master, or working in the kingdom, but the twist here is that many of those who worked in the vineyard did not think that the wages were fairly paid.

Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. says the story could be divided into three parts for the organized study: the basic story of the hiring agreement, the twist in the story when the workers were all paid the same thing, and the landowner’s explanation of what he was doing.

Sometimes life just isn't fair

“But that’s not fair!” Most parents have heard this phrase umpteen times. The notion of fairness also known as justice, is built into us. It makes us aware that each of us has certain rights that need to be respected. Sometimes that's just the way life is, which is in part the point of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.

God’s economy of grace is not the same as the natural order people expect. And that, Fr. John J. Ludvik explains, is why this story from Jesus is so difficult to understand. God’s lavish love and forgiveness go out equally to those have worked hard and to those who haven’t. Fr. Ron Rolheiser says this amazing grace is the same for those who have been faithful for a long time and to those who jumped on-board at the last minute, to those who did their duty and to those who lived selfishly.

Fr. Joseph Pellegrino points out that His standards are clearly not like ours. God gives His Grace according to how He perceives the work that is done, according to His standards, not according to ours. God sees the individual effort and rewards this effort generously, Fr. James Gilhooley explains. And as God himself clearly indicates in the First Readings from Isaiah 55:8, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts; my ways not your ways." 

God's Infinite Generosity

Obviously the wages as distributed in the parable are not a strict remuneration for hours worked. they are more like a gift from a fond heart. Fr. John Foley, S. J. says Jesus told this parable to show how God’s caring heart works, how he gives a depth of love to each person in this world, especially to ones who suffer and are left behind.

Each person receives his or her own share. We have unequal physical talents, Marcellino D'Ambrosio reminds us. They vary a lot from person to person. But what they all have in common is that they come as free gifts from God who didn’t have to create any of us. What is being revealed to us, according to Fr. Alex McAllister SDS, is one of the great promises of God that he will reward with eternal life all those who follow him, all those who respond to his call.

God's choice of a person or people, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB reminds us, should not be a cause of pride in those chosen, or rejection of those not chosen. It is not for us to determine who qualifies to enter the Kingdom. Our task is not to be constantly looking over our shoulder but rather to rejoice in the task that we have been given to proclaim his love to the world and to live a life worthy of his name.

The Lord's Call to All

Father Cusick goes straight to the point - the calling of all mankind, the vocation of all, is to holiness. God's kingdom is meant to be the new order of grace. His is a gift that is never earned in the way that a wage is earned, and expected. Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. asks us to reflect on this: isn't there always something unexpected and wonderful about a gift of love, even a kind word?

We can put it this way, explains Fr. Phil Bloom. The devil wants us to compare ourselves to others and to stew about how unfair things are. But God wants Stewardship. Whatever we have, God wants us to recognize it as a free gift that we must invest for His glory and the good of others. The Lord calls all those who have received Him in word and sacrament to share generously with all men what they themselves have received.

All share equally in the task, whether called early or late in the day, to build up the kingdom of God in this world. What matters is that when the Lord returns, you and I are working in the vineyard.

Exaltation of the Cross

Last Sunday  we celebrated the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.  Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP reflected on the feast and tells us that this feast comes down on the side of salvation. She reminds us that Jesus’ self-emptying in the Incarnation and later on the cross is His supreme act of love for the Father, who sent him to save the world.

Father Longenecker relates this to the celebration of the Mass. He reminds us all that the primary understanding of the Mass is now, and always has been, a re-presentation of the cross of Christ. The once for all sacrifice of Calvary is brought into the present moment through the action of the Mass and applied to our needs here and now. This is why he sounds off his irritation when people refer to Mass as primarily a fellowship meal. Clearly, it is not, he concludes.

Families, Scripture & Youth

From Jennifer Fulwiler we deliver "6 Tips for Surviving the First Years of Parenthood." She explains that while becoming a parent is a natural part of life for some people, many newlyweds are utterly unprepared for for the months and years that lay ahead. She hopes that her insight helps.

Ever wondered why teens today are so obsessed with reading Harry Potter and Twilight? Katie Peterson posits that If we examine some possible reasons for their massive success among the youthful generation, then we are reminded of how we can show young people that Scripture can give them all the thrills and intrigue that they receive from these novels—well, actually…much more. She offers her "Six Tips for More Effectively Teaching Scripture to Youth." And more for the youth, specifically our college-aged young people. John Zmirak teaches you "How Not to Waste Your 4 Years of College."

“Conscience” in a Culture without Truths?

In our national debates the critical issue of protection for claims of “conscience” have increasingly been raised, most deeply, of course, on the matter of abortion and same-sex marriage. But behind the arguments over claims of “conscience,” Hadley Arkes argues that there is an eerie truth that dare not speak its name: The understanding of “conscience” has been deflated in our current law, along with the understanding of “religion.”

What Is Spiritual Desolation and how do we get out of it? Christine Watkins says it is characterized by our relationship with God. God feels far away. Prayer is dry, difficult, and unappealing, and we can feel tempted to abandon or lessen our faith practices. She offers four ways to get out of spiritual desolation.

And finally, here's one about actors Emilio Estevez and his dad Martin Sheen talking about faith. Estevez and his dad Sheen sat down for an interview a few years back about their film, "The Way." Sheen recalled that fateful day in 1981 he came back to the arms of the Catholic Church, "I went to confession with the priest and wept. I came back to a Church that was very different. I left a Church of fear and returned to a Church of love."

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. A blessed and happy new week to all.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

FEATURED BLOG: “Conscience” in a Culture without Truths?
BQ: Can Catholics marry non-Catholics in Catholic ceremonies?
PASTORAL HISPANA: La justicia de Dios es distinta a la nuestra 

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