Saturday, September 23, 2017

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Catechism Links[1]
CCC 210-211: God of mercy and piety
CCC 588-589: Jesus identifies his compassion to sinners with God’s

“Parable Of The Laborers In The Vineyard” 
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn 


Commentary on Is 55:6-9

This passage begins with an exhortation to seek the Lord through prayer (call him while he is near), and to repent from sinful ways, asking for God's forgiveness.  The author captures the perfection of God's thoughts (and of Christ's actions prophetically), expressing the perfection of God contrasted with the fallen and sinful nature of mankind. The passage is taken from what is known as “Deutero-Isaiah,” that part written after the Babylonian exile. Using words common to the Old Testament (see Amos 5:4, and Psalm 9:11), the prophet exhorts the people to return to God. The essential paradox of God’s presence is explained: “God is transcendent yet near enough to help; man is helpless yet expected to act energetically, the ways of God are exalted yet required of man.”[5]


R. (18a) The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

Commentary on Ps 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18

Psalm 145 is a hymn of praise and thanksgiving. The psalmist echoes the exhortation in Isaiah 55:6, to seek the Lord actively in the final strophe “The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.

CCC: Ps 145:3 300; Ps 145:9 295, 342

Commentary on Phil 1:20c-24, 27a

St. Paul writes to the church at Philippi during his imprisonment somewhere, in danger of death. In these verses he contemplates his own martyrdom. While death is seen as a return to Christ which the Apostle desires, his mission and continued service is seen as being united with Christ’s life on earth. This passage concludes with an exhortation to the Philippians that they might live lives worthy of Christ.

CCC: Phil 1:21 1010, 1698; Phil 1:23 1005, 1011, 1021, 1025; Phil 1:27 1692

Commentary on Mt 20:1-16a

The parable of the Laborers Hired Late continues the dialogue from Matthew 19:30: “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” The inference here changes slightly: in Matthew 19:23-30 the Lord referred to those who would follow him into eternal life, while here he broadens the scope to imply that those called later to faithful service would receive the same reward as those first called.


Scripture today gives a unified call to come to faith in God and Christ.  Taken out of context, one might believe the Gospel parable of the Laborers Called Late might be seen as an invitation to procrastinate in responding to that call.  After all, why commit to the difficult path our faith requires if those who turn to an easier path and come late to faith will receive the same reward as we who strive to follow that path through most of our lives?

There must be reasons beyond the promise that comes at the end of the journey.  One of these is shown in St. Paul’s ethical debate about whether he should embrace death so he can be with Christ sooner, or if he should stay the course on earth, continuing his zealous efforts to proclaim the Gospel.  His conclusion – God’s gift of life is to be cherished in spite of the fact that at its conclusion the faithful receive the bliss of the heavenly kingdom.

What is it then that makes life worth living?  It is clearly not the excesses of the hedonistic goals society seems to embrace.  This lifestyle and world-view lead to spiritual death.  If wealth is what is to be pursued, there will never be enough, and even when great wealth is accumulated, those who achieve it find it an empty promise, a hollow shell with no life, no warmth, no peace.  No, life does not find fulfillment in “things.” 

Neither does life find fulfillment in labor, even labor for a worthy cause.  Fulfillment comes from an inner peace, and inner peace comes from the satisfaction of knowing that one is valued, supported, and protected by God.  It comes from knowing that nothing can take that peace from us while we remain in a lived relationship with God through Christ.  And when we enjoy that peace, in communion with others similarly motivated and infused, the resonance of their peace enhances our own.

Looking at those laborers who came late we see that indeed they will receive a reward for their labor.  Placed in the context of faithful service however, those who have labored long have received the rewards of their labor in the sense of fulfillment one finds in doing good things well. To put it another way, who would find their life’s experience better, a person who lived most of their life as a slave or one who lived their life free?

It is spiritual peace and the joy that flows from that motivates us to take up the mind of Christ as soon as we can, and maintain it throughout our lives.  While those who come late may receive the same reward, we who stay on the path longer derive greater joy in the promise fulfilled.


[1] Catechism links are taken from the Homiletic Directory, Published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 29 June 2014
[2] The Picture Used Is “Parable Of The Laborers In The Vineyard” By Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn 

[5] Jerome Biblical Commentary, © 1968 Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 22:49, pp. 380

Friday, September 22, 2017

Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest

“Padre Pio” 
Photographer and Date are Unknown


Reading 1: 1 Timothy 6:13-16

Commentary on 1 Tm 6:13-16

Following St. Paul’s instructions regarding various ministries, here using Christ’s passion as an example, he lays a solemn obligation on his student. The Apostle exhorts Timothy to dedicate himself completely and selflessly to the work of ministry. It is most likely that the commandment he speaks of is the requirement to keep God first in his life. The passage concludes with an eloquent liturgical profession or doxology of faith in the Savior.

CCC: 1 Tm 6:15-16 2641; 1 Tm 6:16 52
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 100:1b-2, 3, 4, 5

R. (2) Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.

Commentary on Ps 100:1b-2, 3, 4, 5

Psalm 100 is a communal song of thanksgiving in which the psalmist invites the people to come to God with praise and thanksgiving for the wondrous things he has done. In this selection the psalmist gives thanks for God’s favor and his unending support in all good things. It affirms God’s saving grace given to his sons and daughters through all generations. The song recalls God the creator whose love and fidelity knows no bounds.

Gospel: Luke 8:4-15

Commentary on Lk 8:4-15

Jesus uses the rich analogy of the seed (of faith given in Baptism) to show the various courses of faith in human endeavor. Because our selection gives not only the parable but the Lord’s explanation of its meaning, the only historical note we will make is that, at that point in history, in that region, when planting a field, the seed was sown first and then the field was plowed. (See more extensive commentary on Matthew 13:1-23)

CCC: Lk 8:6 2731; Lk 8:10 1151; Lk 8:13-15 2847; Lk 8:13 2731; Lk 8:15 368, 2668

Much has been said about the parable of the Sower (even in this space) and much can be extracted from that wonderful parable.  It reminds us so quickly that regardless of our station in life or place on the path of faith, we can always wander off into the weeds or rocks and fall prey to the elements around us.

This week we heard the story of a young lady.  She was brought up in a good home, although one that suffered the fate many have suffered in this modern age, that of divorce.  Shortly after that unfortunate event occurred, the young girl, then nine, began to rebel against the faith. Her mother remarried, but the young lady grew up with faith that was almost an afterthought in her life.

She graduated from high school and went away to college, a “Catholic” college in Chicago, and enrolled in a Social Work program.  She felt drawn to serve others, you see.  Her first years were like most college students', a search for acceptance and a place in the new cultural environment.  This young lady found her way into a “Women’s Studies” program.  How and why she was drawn there is not important.  What is important is not that she was drawn there, but what she encountered.

The faculty and staff of this program advocate in their personal lives a homosexual lifestyle.  (Please note, this is not a condemnation of Women’s Studies programs in general.)  Although to this point, our young subject’s life had been somewhat typical for an attractive young lady (numerous boyfriends, some more serious than others), her new friends and teachers began to show her how wrong her beliefs had been and how narrow her understanding of human sexuality.

Roughly a year after entering the program (over her parent’s concerns – they are paying the bills),  she announced to them that she was going to enter into a homosexual relationship with an older woman with whom she had formed a relationship.  Her conservative parents are understandably devastated.  They have tried various inducements (they even tried to force her out of this situation by cutting off support) but she is convinced this is where she is accepted.

What is the moral here?  The parents are good people and tried to bring their daughter up in a loving home.  They are active in the parish (not activists but practicing).  They see the results of a weak faith being plunged among weeds that have now completely changed their daughter’s moral outlook.  Oh, and the priest who called from the university to address the parent’s concerns with this situation told them that the institution needed to be open to all lifestyles if it was to be an effective learning institution.

Seeds are hearty but delicate things.  They can grow in almost any medium.  But without having the lesson taught by St. Paul – that faith must be a priority – they can grow in unintended and undesirable ways, falling prey to those who would USE them, telling them that their lust is love.


[1] The Picture is “Padre Pio” Photographer and Date are Unknown

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

“The Holy Women” by James Tissot, 1886-96


Reading 1: 1 Timothy 6:2c-12

Commentary on 1 Tm 6:2c-12

As part of his caution about false teachers, St. Paul exhorts St. Timothy to teach and exemplify the Gospel he was given (by St. Paul). Challenges to St. Paul’s Gospel do not come from Christ but out of conceit.  The Apostle also tells his student that he should avoid public debates about this teaching because they would serve only to divide the community of faith and cause suspicion to be cast regarding St. Timothy’s motives in preaching (thinking, perhaps, he had a profit motive as ascribed to false teachers).

The Apostle encourages his disciple telling him that there is value in the peace of Christ that is beyond material gain. He espouses the view that Christians cannot serve God and the Gospel while striving for material riches. This kind of effort will divide the individual and the community and cause great pain.

He concludes this selection instructing his disciple to encourage the community to embrace the Christian virtues: “righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.” These, he reminds St. Timothy, are what lead to the prize – “eternal life.

CCC: 1 Tm 6:8 2837; 1 Tm 6:12 2145
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 49:6-7, 8-10, 17-18, 19-20

R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!

Psalm 49 is a “Wisdom Psalm.” In this selection the strophes focus on the folly of those who trust in temporal wealth. All the wealth one can posses cannot ransom them from God’s judgment. In the end, the psalmist says, all die, the wise and the foolish alike, and the wealth of the world stays in the world.

Gospel: Luke 8:1-3

Commentary on Lk 8:1-3

“St. Luke presents Jesus as an itinerant preacher traveling in the company of the Twelve and of the Galilean women who are sustaining them out of their means. These Galilean women will later accompany Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem and become witnesses to his death (Luke 23:49) and resurrection (Luke 24:9-11, where Mary Magdalene and Joanna are specifically mentioned; cf also Acts 1:14). The association of women with the ministry of Jesus is most unusual in the light of the attitude of first-century Palestinian Judaism toward women. The more common attitude is expressed in John 4:27, and early rabbinic documents caution against speaking with women in public.” [4]


What is the value of salvation?  What is it worth to insure a place in God’s heavenly kingdom for eternity?  In both the Gospel from St. Luke and St. Paul’s letter to Timothy the idea of temporal material support is dealt with.

In St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, the Apostle uses a play on words to contrast the value of material gain with the gain received from the salvific path to Christ.  He tells his student that those who teach falsely about Christ and make a profit for doing so have completely tarnished the very teachings they are professing.  Indeed there is gain to be made from teaching and exhorting the Gospel of Christ, but it is not monetary, rather its value is beyond that of money.  The value of the Gospel is Christ’s peace in this life and an eternity of peace with him in the next.

In the Gospel of St. Luke, we hear the description of Jesus’ teaching mission and how he and his disciples were able to do the important work entrusted to them.  They received support from others whose charism was to provide support for the Lord out of their own means.

These two examples bring to light a frequent tension in ministry: the idea that when we give the Gospel of Jesus to others, it is done without charge.  How could we charge for something that has value beyond any price?  This is weighed against the need for financial support to continue to do the work the Lord calls us to do. As long as the secular world demands currency of perceived value to provide the basic needs for God’s servants so that they can continue to do his work, there will be a need for benefactors, blessed and praised for their support, because without it God’s work could not be done.  There will need to be fund-raisers, telethons and pledge drives because those with means to do so must be given an opportunity to use their talents (that may otherwise seem to have only secular value) in the service of God.

Today scripture brings us an invitation to embrace those who have a talent for secular success. May they always see that ability as a way they can contribute to God’s plan through their generosity.


[1] The picture is “The Holy Women” by James Tissot, 1886-96
[3] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL).  This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[4] See NAB footnote on Luke 8:1-3