Pastoral Sharings: "26th Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage  Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
  Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
  September 28, 2014 

  The themes of the First Reading and the Gospel are all
   about changing one’s attitude and behaviour. In one 
  word this is what the Christian life is all about: change.

  Unfortunately we human beings are normally quite 
  resistant to change and yet we do acknowledge its important role in our lives. We acknowledge that the alcoholic has to make a decisive change and has to reorient his life and begin to live soberly.

To take other cases the same is true for the drug addict, the gambler, the habitual criminal or the serial adulterer. We can think of plenty of other examples for ourselves.

Without a decisive change of direction such people face personal disaster. The only problem is that when we look at things in this way we tend to disassociate ourselves from such people. We think that alcoholism, addiction and other serious problems involve other people and not ourselves.

In the scripture readings today however all this is summed up in the word sin. And sin as we know affects every single person in the world. Sin affects each and every one of us; and we fool ourselves if we think that we are an exception.

And make no mistake about it sin is addictive. The child who starts off by stealing sweets from the supermarket can all to easily end up involved in far greater thefts and frauds. It is therefore vitally important that we instil good habits in our children. The more children learn to do what is right, in other words to have a well formed sense of morals, the better people it will make them in the long run.

I worked for many years as a prison chaplain and it very soon became obvious to me that crime runs in families. Being brought up in a home with practically no morals inevitably meant that the children too inevitably became criminals; sometimes even ending up in the very same jail as their parents.

Habit is what it is all about. Helping your children to acquire good habits is the best gift you can give them. The task of each parent is to help the child to develop good behaviour and to acquire the virtues necessary to live a good and fulfilling life.

The worse thing is for a child to acquire bad habits and warped ways of thinking. We all know getting rid of a bad habit is anything but easy. It requires a great deal of determination and involves us in making hard and inflexible decisions.

Jesus gives us today the rather fine little parable about the two brothers one who says he won’t go to the vineyard but then relents and does so and the other brother who says that he will go to the vineyard but in fact doesn’t.

Both changed their minds; one positively, the other negatively. Objectively we easily know which one did the right thing but we have no difficulty seeing ourselves in either role. We know that sometimes we do the right thing and at some other times we do the wrong thing. In Christian terms we call this falling into temptation.

Resisting temptation is an essential part of the struggle that is the life of a Christian. And it is not easy, however there are some helpful steps that we can take.

First we have to acknowledge the particular temptation and be conscious of any inappropriate desires that arise within us. Be clear about it if we don’t openly face our weaknesses we can never overcome them.

Then we have to avoid those particular temptations by taking evasive action such as never going into a particular shop where we might spend inappropriately or avoiding the company of someone we are inappropriately attracted to. This is the classic advice given for avoiding temptation and can be summed up in one word: flee.

After this we have to exercise our willpower and make decisions in relation to our temptations. In many cases this means making the choice to stop doing certain things. In this way we can build up a sort of moral barrier against falling into sinful ways.

And lastly we need to substitute good behaviours for bad ones. This is important because after resisting temptation we need to reward ourselves with a virtuous act, something we can feel good about. By doing this we reinforce good behaviour.

Let me repeat these steps: First acknowledge the temptation, then take evasive action; after this make a decision to do better and then finally substitute good behaviour for bad.

Taking such steps to avoid sin is vitally important for us all. By taking these steps we gradually build up our good character and so become better people; we then find that we have acquired high standards and begin to see that others look up to us.

The other important thing for Christians to learn is the lesson of repentance, something which is highlighted in the Gospel reading. The first son said he would not go to the vineyard but repented and eventually did go there.

So on those occasions when we do give in to temptation we must programme ourselves to feel remorse and then immediately repent of our sin. Of course, the Church gives us an excellent mechanism in the Sacrament of Reconciliation to enable us to express our repentance and to experience healing and forgiveness.

Reconciliation is a sacrament that we might not need to use every week but it should be used every few months to help us stay on the right track.

This whole area of temptation and how to avoid falling into sin is of vital importance to anyone who is serious about following the Christian life. We are all too aware that our life can be a struggle but it is important to know who the real adversary is. We minimise the role of the Tempter at our peril.

When you read the lives of the saints you often come across periods of their life when they struggled with the Devil, sometimes in an almost literal way. We tend to gloss over these incidents and sometimes think that these are pious imaginings. But they are not. The Devil is battling for the soul of each person in this Church, and indeed each person in the world.

Do not underestimate your adversary. Realise that the real struggle in life is against sin and temptation and that whenever we try to minimise the deadly effects of sin we are making a big mistake. Lulling ourselves into a false sense of security actually puts us in much greater danger.

So I urge you to keep those two sons in mind. Think about them often. Ask yourself often which of them you are at any given moment and then ask yourself which of them would you more life to be.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September 28, 2014

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—September 28, 2014
Today, Jesus shocks the Jewish chief priests by telling them something about themselves that no one else would have dared to say. What was it?

Gospel (Read Mt 21:28-32)

Our reading is in a portion of St. Matthew’s Gospel that reports on the tangles Jesus had with the religious leaders of Jerusalem. In the preceding verses, they questioned His authority to enter the Temple to teach (see Mt 21:23). He answered their question with a question of His own first: “The baptism of John, whence was it?” They refused to answer, of course. If they said, “From God,” then Jesus would embarrass them by asking why they didn’t believe him. If they said, “From men,” the people would be up in arms. They pleaded ignorance, thus forfeiting any explanation of Jesus’ authority.

Twenty-sixth Sunday: Empty Means Full
Today’s second reading is from the second chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.  The reading contains one of the most beautiful Christological hymns in scripture. Paul begins by telling the Philippians to care for each other, be united in one heart and do nothing out of selfishness and vainglory. He then tells us to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus.  The Christological hymn follows: “who though he was in the form of God did not deem equality with God something to be grasped, but rather emptied himself….etc.” 

Encountering God In Daily Life
New York City can be a daunting place for a Catholic, or anyone who wants to live a religious or moral life. While it is a most materialistic and secular city, I have managed to find inspiration and people who share my love for God. They are rare and very precious to me. Some I found in obvious places such as my church, and some through my cab-driving; my interface with the world. Either way, it is in the unexpected that I find small blessings.

Pope: ‘Our Strength Is the Love of Christ’
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has made an appeal for prayer and aid for the victims of the Ebola outbreak, which has been sweeping through several West-African countries.

Speaking during his general audience, the Pope expressed his closeness “to the many people affected by this terrible disease. I invite you to pray for them and for the many who have so tragically lost their lives.”

Let him who has ears, hear! The Parables that Portray the Drama of Human Choice
In yesterday’s post, I pondered the great drama of human life as Scripture sets it forth. We are caught up in a great and cosmic battle and must choose sides. There are two armies and no third way given. Sadly, most have lost any sense of the battle and of the drama of life, despite the battle lines being clearer than ever.

Signs From Heaven
I used to have a strange, very naive idea that I would be closely united with my father after his death. I know that we are united with the communion of saints, and that death no longer separates us (Romans 8:38-39). I believe we can pray to the saints, and even pray to and pray for our relatives who have gone before us. But I guess my interpretation of what that union would look like differed from reality.

I thought that all I had to do was pray and that my dad would visit me in my dreams, or that God would send me endless consolations to constantly comfort me. I believed that my father would send me signs of his present happiness from “the other side” in big ways.

Christ, the One Teacher of All (Mysticism and Magisterium: Part III of VI)
We might summarize the previous two posts in this series by saying that we are called to think with the Church because Christ and the Church possess same Spirit who is present throughout history in the details. When the Church teaches, Christ teaches, and those who depart from the Church depart from Christ. In this post, we shall examine than manner in which Christ is the one Teacher of all.

Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?
Last week I wrote a post here on David Hume, miracles, and the resurrection of Jesus. Some of the commenters took issue with my claim that “all the alternatives to the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead are more incredible than the miracle.” I’d like to elaborate on that here.

Christians claim that the historical human being Jesus of Nazareth was executed then physically rose from the dead and stayed alive. He was seen by many people and then was seen to vanish into the invisible realm. Here we have the most revolutionary and radical question of human history. Did it really happen?

Moral Chaos Should Strengthen Your Faith
While many pious people are wringing their hands over the popular culture and wondering if God will save his people, I find that the moral decay and preposterous incongruities we witness daily actually reinforce all I believe about Divine Revelation. What else is to be expected when God is removed from the Public Square?

Hail Mary: The Invincible Victory of the Black Madonna
Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa Brings Global Unity to Battle for Life

“An icon is the visual image of the invisible, given to us so that our understanding may be filled with sweetness,” wrote St. John of Damascus in his eighth-century defense of the veneration of icons.

Our Lady’s Message in Wisconsin: Conversion & Catechesis
On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 2010, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help located about sixteen miles northeast of Green Bay, Bishop David Ricken endorsed our country’s first Church-approved Marian apparition:

“I declare with moral certainty and in accord with the norms of the Church that the events, apparitions and locutions given to Adele Brise in October of 1859 do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief (although not obligatory) by the Christian faithful.”

The Devil: Is He for Real? Why Does God Let Him Hang Around?
Dear Father John, I’ve heard that talking about the devil is just a way to talk about bad things that happen.  On the other hand, there are some people that claim there really is a devil.  Is the devil for real?  If so, why does God let him hang around when our purpose is to get to heaven?  It seems so contradictory.

What Does the Church Teach About the Devil?
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Last spring, Father Michael Drea, the senior Catholic chaplain at Harvard University, read a text message from a student, who reported that a Satanic “black mass” would be held on the Cambridge campus in early May.

The chaplain and his flock quickly launched a campaign to stop the event that gained national attention and ultimately resulted in the cancellation of the black mass at Harvard, while a Holy Hour scheduled for the same evening drew thousands.

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.

5 Prayers Recommended by an Exorcist to Combat Evil
Listers, Father Gabriele Amorth claims to have performed over 70,000 exorcisms from 1986 to 2010. The good priest serves as an exorcist for the Diocese of Rome and is the founder and honorary president of the International Association of Exorcists. He has written two books:An Exorcist Tells His Story & . And yes, his favorite movie is The Exorcist.An Exorcist: More Stories

Raphael: Our Joyful Angelic Friend
Couched in between the Book of Nehemiah and Judith can be found an endearing, heart-warming, uplifting and inspiring short Book of the Bible with the title Tobit.  Composed of only fourteen short chapters, the story runs smoothly and quickly with simple but profound messages for the whole world and at all times. The Word of God is like a two-edged sword that pierces bone from marrow. Jesus reminds us that man does not simply live on bread alone but on every word that issues forth from the mouth of God. The Psalmist calls our attention to the fact that the word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path.

Archangels and Guardian Angels
Last week, we began our discussion of angels, examining their role in sacred Scripture and even investigating the nine choirs of angels. This week, we focus our attention on the archangels and the guardian angels. Sacred Scripture identifies by name three angels, who are the great messengers of God — Sts. Michael, Raphael and Gabriel.

The Weapon for These Times: 54 Day Rosary Novena for Divine Assistance
“The rosary is the weapon for these times.” – St. Padre Pio

Have you read the news lately? It is seemingly nothing but terrorism, beheadings, mass murders, suicide, sexual anarchy, persecution, and even blatant Satan worship. While one might argue that such things have always existed in human history, I am convinced that evil is emboldened, and that it is being unleashed in a way not seen in a very long time.

Visiting the Sick Takes Christlike Courage
We can be awfully smug when it comes to Old Testament taboos. Many people assume they were nothing but superstitious, pre-scientific attempts to avoid disease.

All this leads, of course, to a triumphant and confident conclusion that we are 4,000 years smarter than the people who shackled themselves with barbaric nonsense about eating unclean food or avoiding people with rashes.

Now, Make Your Act of Contrition
Confession. To say that it is on my heart is an understatement. Confession is on my heart because I’ve had the pure blessing of watching over 150 children make their first confession. Confession is on my heart because I need it so much, and I am reminded of that fact in a radical way during Lent. Confession is on my heart because I’m always blown away that God would even welcome me in a confessional, much less forgive my sins.

How The Saints Faced Anxiety
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.                   -Philippians 4:6-7

Some saints were as prone to worry and anxiety as the rest of us are. But, by placing their trust in the Lord’s presence and care, they were able to overcome their fears. Some of these fears were relatively minor ones, as faced by Bl. Helen of Udine, who, during a period of distress, was terrified even of loud noises.

Ghosts in the Bible: The Old Testament
Ghosts posed a problem for the early Church because they seemed to reflect a holdover of pagan belief and superstition. Yet reliable witnesses continued to report encounters with what to appeared to be spirits, and witnesses were not so easily dismissed as they are now. As we head into Halloween, I hope to do a few posts examining the place of ghosts in Catholicism: how have people reacted to accounts of ghosts, and how has the reaction changed over time?

You Can Fly With An Eternity Attitude At A Heavenly Altitude
The old man was generous to a fault, had raised a passle of kids, and loved even more grandkids. He and one son-in-law, though so different in age, had shared the experience of serving their country, he in combat in WWII in the Pacific and the son-in-law serving stateside during the Vietnam War. The son-in-law had an unspoken respect for the old man and sometimes marveled at the old man’s dedication to his wife and family. Often, when the son-in-law would say something cynical, uncharitable, arrogant, or ridiculing someone else, the old man would tell him “You don’t have the right altitude.” Not “attitude,” but “altitude.”

Three Catholic, non-fiction books to enhance your faith…
Journey To Heaven: A Road Map For Catholic Men (Emmaus Road Publishing): Over the past two years I’ve known him, Randy Hain has been one the most encouraging supporters of my work. So when he asked me to review his new book, I was delighted to return at least one of the many favors I owe him.

Here’s the problem: I wanted to write a thorough review, which meant I took forever to actually read Journey To Heaven, a mistake of epic proportions.

This book is not only well-written and practical, but it’s sorely needed in today’s world.

The Top 10 Reasons to be a Catholic Man
In the post-modern “anything goes and nothing means anything” world, men are lost, not knowing what to believe or what to do.  Seduced into pursuing their own selfish passions, post-modern men are manipulated like C.S. Lewis predicted they would be:  “men without chests”, who don’t know what to believe and are manipulated by those with political and material power through propaganda to do what the powerful desire.  This is not freedom, it is slavery.

Seeking Satisfaction – Gluttony
There is a grotesque scene in the Monty Python film The Meaning of Life in which a hugely corpulent character named Mr Creosote eats a gigantic meal, vomits repeatedly and then, after eating a tiny after dinner mint, explodes. The comedy is completely outrageous, but you can’t miss the explicitly revolting depiction of gluttony.

The Devil’s War on Silence
There are key strategies of indirect attack that the enemy of our souls uses to significantly disrupt our spiritual progress. One is the corruption of human sexuality. As the analogy of holy spousal love is one of the most effective in understanding divine intimacy, the enemy desires to corrupt human sexuality in order to further obscure what it means to understand the possibilities of union with God.

To Be or Not to Be a Priest or Nun
As a college junior six years ago, Marisa Cirenza told her family she was discerning whether God wanted her to change her vocational plan from “doctor” to “religious sister.”

Emanuel and Linda Cirenza of Charlottesville, Va., challenged their only daughter, realizing that if she became a religious sister with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (often known as the Nashville Dominicans), it would mean a big change for the family.

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