Pastoral Sharings: "25th Sunday in Ordinary Time"


Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 21, 2014

The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard which we 
have as our Gospel reading today is very typical of Jesus’ 
teaching. It tells us about the owner who pays his
labourers the same amount of money despite the widely 
different numbers of hours they have spent working in 
his vineyard.

What Jesus is trying to point out is how different God’s attitudes are from our own. And this is well summed up in the phrase from the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, “The heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.”

We human beings usually have extremely well defined concepts of justice although our application of them is not always very consistent. We are quite good at knowing if an injustice has been done to us but we are not so good at recognising whether injustices are being done to others.

If you want to see the truth of this just watch a group of children trying to cut a cake. There will be endless complaints about which one has the biggest slice. And we adults are not much better than children in this regard.

Our tendency is to reflect only on our own situation and simply not to notice what is happening to other people. Such attitudes lead to many injustices being continued from one generation to the next. We end up with extreme imbalances between rich and poor and the exploitation of the weak and those who have no power.

The contrast between our way of doing things and that of the owner of the vineyard could not be more extreme. He does not seem to be concerned about rewarding his labourers for the quantity of work they have completed; he is more preoccupied with giving everyone enough to live on regardless of the amount of work they have completed.

The owner is motivated not by natural justice or even his own profit. No, he is motivated by his own overwhelming generosity of spirit. And Jesus is telling us that this is how God is and he invites us to change our own attitudes and make them more like those of God.

In the Kingdom of God everything is topsy-turvy, everything is the opposite to the way things are in this world. The Kingdom of God is an upside down world, in it the rich are poor and the poor are rich; in it, as Jesus says in today’s reading, “the last will be first and the first last.”

It is hard for us to understand this concept because we are so concerned with equality and getting our fair due. We think that our work should be rewarded fairly and that those who in our opinion choose not to work should therefore not be given the same rewards as those of us who do work very hard.

In this world this seems to be a fair enough point of view, it accords with our idea of natural justice and ties in with our need to have a roof over our head and our desire to put food on the table for our families.

It is difficult for us therefore to come to terms with the proposal of Jesus that we should be motivated by kindness and generosity rather than anything else. He wants us to take the way God is for our model but we find that this is very difficult to do. We feel that we have to live in the real world where money is the measure of most things.

Taking God’s way of doing things and making it our own is actually a very revolutionary thing to do. It requires a complete change of outlook and a total modification of our priorities. But I assure you that once you have made this change in attitude you will find it very fulfilling.

Making such a change lessens your preoccupation with material things; it liberates you from worry and helps you to see everything in its true perspective.

I remember some years ago discussing this parable with some parishioners and one of them compared the workers in the vineyard with those of us who were baptised as children and those who converted to the faith late in life.

Those who were baptised as children he compared with those who went to work in the vineyard at daybreak and those who converted late in life to the ones who came at the eleventh hour. Whenever the decision to follow the Lord is made it comes with the exact same reward.

It just so happens that we are baptising an adult at the 12.30 mass today, a cause of rejoicing if ever there was one. In this case it comes at the end of a lifetime of accompanying his wife to Church but just because the decision was made gradually over a long period it is no less sincere for that.

I know that there are many others who come regularly to this Church even though they are not Catholics. Maybe they come with their partner or their children but were not brought up in the faith themselves. This would be a good moment for them to think about the possibility of converting and becoming a Catholic. We have a programme starting soon where people can learn about the faith leading to Baptism or reception into the Church at Easter.

Whether we embraced the faith in our childhood or later in life makes no difference. Following the Lord as a member of his Church is a wonderful thing and it brings great rewards. Committing oneself to the Gospel changes our perspective from the ways and attitudes of this world to the ways and attitudes of the Lord. We start to see things through God’s eyes and through the lives we live are able to share the Good News of the Gospel with everyone around us.

Today we rejoice at one Baptism and we look forward to many more at Easter.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September21, 2014

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—September 21, 2014
Jesus tells a parable that poses an interesting question: Would we ever grumble about God’s generosity?

Gospel (Read Mt 20:1-16a)

In the verses preceding today’s Gospel, Jesus told the disciples “it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19:23). A “rich young man” had just gone away “sorrowful” from Jesus, because he could not detach from his possessions to follow Him. When the disciples hear that even the rich, thought to be especially blessed by God, would have a hard time entering heaven, they ask, “Who, then, can be saved?” (Mt 19:25) Jesus gives them an answer that He further elaborates in today’s reading: “With men, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).

Twenty-fifth Sunday: It Is Never Too Late
It certainly seemed like the workers who spent the entire day in the vineyard had a point. It didn’t seem just for them to receive the same pay as those who worked a few hours. After all, they were out in the sun all day, while those other guys only worked in the late afternoon. But the owner of the vineyard also had a point. He had made an agreement with each group as he called them to work in his vineyard. He did not violate his agreement with the first group by being so generous to the last group.

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard?Question: “What is the meaning of the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard?”
Answer: This lengthy parable is found only in the gospel of Matthew. Jesus tells the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) in response to Peter’s question in Matthew 19:27: “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Peter wanted to know what reward would be given to those who give up everything to follow Jesus. In response, Jesus explains this truth about the kingdom of heaven.

Parables and Parabolic Images in the Gospels
What is a “Parable”?

Definition: “At its simplest a parable is a metaphor or simile  drawn from nature or common life,  arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness,  and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application  to tease it into active thought.” (C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1961, p. 5)

Implications of this definition:

Pope Francis: God Visits His People and Gives Them Hope
The Pope prayed: ‘We ask for the grace that our Christian witness be a witness that brings the closeness of God to his people, that closeness that sows hope.’

VATICAN CITY — On Tuesday, Pope Francis focused on the importance of giving hope to the world by imitating Jesus Christ’s closeness to God’s people.

“When God visits his people, he restores hope to them. Always,” Pope Francis said in his Sept. 16 homily at his Casa Santa Marta residence.

The saint who came from a family of martyrs
The first Korean Catholic priest and a martyr for the faith, St Andrew Kim Taegon is a renowned figure in the history of Catholicism in his native land.

Born on August 21 1821, Andrew came from a family of martyrs. During the 19th century, Catholics in Korea were persecuted by the ruling Joseon Dynasty for abandoning Confucianism and Andrew’s great-grandfather, Kim Chin-hu Pius, died in prison in 1814 after being arrested for his conversion to Catholicism.

The saint’s father, Kim Chae-jun Ignatius, was also martyred in 1839 for the practice of the faith.

7 Church Fathers on that Profound Insight of Mary as the New Eve
In his 1st letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul teaches that Jesus is the “last Adam” who fixed the problems caused by Adam’s sin:

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15.21-22)

But we also know from Genesis that Eve played an important role in the Fall. If Jesus took the place of Adam, who took the place of Eve?

A God-Centered Romance
“Choose someone God-fearing, and make God the center of your relationship.” When this advice was given in a talk for college students about dating and marriage, a girl in the audience asked, “If we’re going to be thinking of God all the time, how can our relationship be exciting?”

The idea of a God-centered romance is, indeed, alien to today’s culture. This age assumes that a God-centered romance is an oxymoron, a dull and platonic relationship as opposed to a wild, pleasure-centered one. But this is hardly the impression I get from the last letter written by Blessed Bartolome Blanco Marquez to his girlfriend before he was executed for his faith during the Spanish Civil War.

The letter begins:

Beauty Set Free
Immodesty is on display almost everywhere, even at Mass. Magazines, advertisements, movies, music, television and many stores promote immodest clothing as normal and moral. But Catholic public figures — as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church and St. John Paul II — disagree with the values endorsed by secular culture. Guided by Church teaching, these Catholics explained their take on modesty and provided advice concerning modest dress with the Register.

The Heart of a Mystic
When we consider the concept of mysticism, most of us assume mystics are somehow set apart from the rest of humanity as mysterious and highly intuitive people who participate in an exceptional relationship with God.  Mysticism is easily translated across multiple religions, and even within Christianity, there is some debate as to what defines a mystic.  As a lifelong Catholic, I have always been drawn to the notable mystical saints: St. Padre Pio, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila.  Their extraordinary ability to sense and recognize God in vast mysteries has fascinated and lured me into the supernatural realm of knowing and being.

Reigning With Christ
As Christians we are called to both accept the reign of Christ our King and also to join with him in reigning.

We should ask first, though, is Christ truly a king or is this just a nice metaphor? To answer, Christ’s Kingship is absolutely fundamental to his identity. The word Christ itself means “anointed” in Greek, which itself is meant to be equivalent to the Hebrew word Messiah. The Messiah was the Davidic King, who was anointed for that task. The Jews were expecting the Messiah, which meant the restoration of the Davidic Kingship. When we call Christ, therefore, we are affirming the Kingship of Christ.

A Voice From Hell
Author’s Note:  Recently, I had a conversation with a high school friend of mine, concerning how people rarely think about the reality of hell, and going there for all eternity. We agreed that very few people do. This article is a work of pure fiction. However, hopefully, it will get people to at least start thinking about what awaits us after death, if we do not repent.

Mass Etiquette: 20 Things To Do And Not Do In Mass
1. Fast before Mass. It is Church law that one fasts for at least 1 hour before receiving Holy Communion. Water and medicine can be consumed, of course. The purpose is to help us prepare to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

2. No Food and Drink in Church. The exceptions would be a drink for small children, water for the priest or choir (if discreet) and water for those who are ill. Bringing a snack into church is not appropriate, because we want to set the church apart as a place of prayer and reflection.

Worshipping Mammon
We think of greed as a fat cat banker who pays himself a million dollar bonus after already receiving a salary of three million for working a seventy hour week doing shady almost legal deals for people. Or we think greed is shown by a person who is a tightwad: pinching every penny and cutting every corner to make a little bit more money wherever he can.

Christ’s teaching on poverty
One of the greatest challenges to my own faith was Christ’s teaching about the elevation of the poor. It simply makes no sense to me to see any special spiritual significance to mere poverty. By itself it does nothing to improve behavior or adherence to law, and for every “smiling face in an impoverished village” that gets mentioned in sermons there are just as many savage and violent faces, to say nothing of the cheerful faces among those in penthouses or lake homes. But I think my challenge was based on confounding two separate elements in Christ’s teaching that need to be kept separate. I’ll call these two elements “the older account” and “the newer account”.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Sacrament of the Eucharist
This week at the parish I work at in Arizona, my Pastor and I began a five-week study on the Catholic Mass for the parents in our Family Faith Formation Program. Because of the large number of children that attend Religious Education, we divide the sessions into four different groups made up of 2 groups per night for two weeks. This means that each group meets every other week.

Beholding our Mother
Have we ever pondered why Jesus choose to reveal Mary to us as our Mother only a few moments before He died on the Cross? We have no doubt that in these words, “Son, behold your Mother,” Jesus was offering His beloved Mother to us as His gift to us. The moment of death is a solemn moment when words are spoken with deep reflection and intent. For those of us who may argue that Jesus did not intend His words literally, remember that dying men do not make figurative statements! Jesus really gave us His Mother to be our own Mother also.

The Saint Who Didn’t Fit In
Sometimes I feel surly because the majority of saints don’t look like me.  They’re not married, or they don’t have large families, or they lived a long time ago in Europe or something, and generally didn’t have to deal with the spiraling decay of modern life while still striving for heaven.

How Strange: Longing For Heaven Is Almost Never Expressed Today
There is a long list of things that people never hear in sermons anymore: mortal sin, judgment, Hell, purgatory, fornication … you name it. But there is another omission that is rather odd given the tenor of these times: Heaven.

Choirs of Angels
Q: With all of the talk about angels, the multitude of pictures and books about them, and even the television shows with angels, why don’t we ever hear more about them? Some of these shows make angels seem like fantasy spirits. Too many people have a superficial view of angels. Do we still believe in them?.

God Reveals – We Respond?
As Christians we are called to listen and respond to God’s direction, because our lives revolve around God. We have no business asking God to bless our great ideas and projects.

Decades ago, I ranted and raved at the efficient, organized people who tried to carry out their own personal agendas within the Catholic Church. Yet, I lacked the words to connect with these proactive Catholics who dismissed me as some sort of  irrelevant, passive mystic.  It seemed that I was the proverbial contemplative Mary-type, trying to reason with practical Martha-types, all to no avail.

Could Jesus Have Sinned? Absolutely Not!
Sacred scripture, sacred tradition, and the teaching of the magisterium are unanimous that Jesus Christ was, and still is, sinless. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” This same teaching is echoed in the Catechism (CCC 467) and also appears in the following general audience given by Pope St. John Paul II:

Between the Skeptic and the Fundamentalist
Reading Scripture as a modern Catholic is a perpetual balance between extremes; among them, the extremes of farfetched skepticism and equally farfetched supernaturalism. For, unlike these extremes, the Faith takes both the unseen realities of the Spirit and the ordinary life of human beings seriously. It believes in both accountants and angels. But many people, seeing only one of these truths clearly, then proceed to use that pet truth as a cudgel against the truth they don’t see.

God is an Artist
Why do Catholics honor the saints? Because God is an artist, and the Church is his masterpiece. Catholics do not honor the saints because they forget to worship God. They honor the saints because these are the saints in whom God has brought glory to himself. If you want to make much of an artist, you don’t ignore or downplay his art. Rather, you marvel at it. You walk around it again and again, always learning something new. When you love an artist, you don’t put his masterpiece in the closet. You frame it. You put it on a pedestal. So it is that God is an artist, and the Church is his masterpiece, his city on a hill (Matt. 5:14).

Premarital Sex is a Mortal Sin – Of this we must be clear and insist on repentance as the only way to be saved
We live in times in which many call good or “no big deal” what God calls sinful. This is especially true in the area of sexuality, where whole sectors of our society not only tolerate but even celebrate sexual practices that the Scriptures call gravely sinful, and which will lead to Hell if not repented of. Acts of fornication (pre-marital sex) and homosexual acts cannot be considered acceptable by any Catholic or by any person who sincerely accepts the Scripture as the Word of God.

Why I Chose to be Chaste
I decided very early on in my life that I was going to wait until marriage to have sex. I can’t take all the credit for being some amazingly religious and reverent young man who was destined for greatness in following every verse and commandment I had ever known. Surely being in a private, Catholic school since the third grade had something to do with it; quite honestly maybe I was just scared to death. Scared of sinning, scared of hurting my religious mother and father, and scared of giving something up I couldn’t have back.

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