"Are you envious because I am generous?" So often, we expect God to operate the way we do. We expect to be able to understand everything he does. When we don't, it's tempting to think that the problem is on God's end, not ours. In today's Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about God's mercy. And some of us may not understand it at first glance. Why should the "lazy" workers who showed up late in the day be given the same wage as the diligent ones? Doesn't this suggest a kind of fundamental disrespect for the efforts of the first group? Extending the principle spiritually, we might ask a similar question. Why should sinners who spend much of their lives doing wrong be allowed to "show up" suddenly and receive the mercy of God? What about those faithful Christians who have walked the road of virtue all along? Shouldn't they receive something more than these ne'er-do-wells?READ MORE
"I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?" The parable Jesus tells today is the story of a king, but in truth it is about Jesus himself. He is the "king" who has forgiven our debts. We are the "servants" whose sins have earned us chastisement. But when we repent and ask for Christ's mercy, he grants it to us without hesitation. The point of the parable, then, is that we too should extend this mercy to others. We should not be like that "wicked servant" who begged for mercy but would not show it to others.READ MORE
"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." This is a fascinating promise. Jesus enlightens us today about the power of communal faith. He emphasizes that a gathering of like-minded believers, small though it may be, has a powerful effect. As he tells his disciples, "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."
Alright then, what are we waiting for? We should take Jesus up on this amazing offer! Going to Mass is one way to do so. When we gather together every Sunday, we do more than listen to readings and receive the Eucharist. We also PRAY together. The priest leads us in these prayers, of course, but we are meant to join with him, as the Second Vatican Council put it, with "fully conscious, and active participation" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #14). We are to make the prayers our own by attentively joining in with them from our hearts. Mindlessly reciting "Amen" or absently whispering the words of the Our Father likely loses the effect Jesus was talking about in today's Gospel. But truly praying together with our parish community certainly fits the bill.READ MORE
"You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." Peter had expressed horror at the prophetic words announcing that Jesus' suffering and death were imminent. Peter didn't want his friend and teacher to undergo this terrible ordeal. He wanted "no such thing" ever to happen to his Lord. But Jesus sharply rebuked Peter's response, comparing it to that of the tempter, Satan. Just as temptation becomes an obstacle to our doing what is right, so Peter was presenting an obstacle to Christ's mission. Suffering was part of it, like it or not. To deny this difficult element of Christ's work would be to deny the bigger plan of God. And so Jesus rightly told Peter that he wasn't thinking like God thinks.READ MORE
"And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church." Simon got a new name after his profession of faith. As soon as he declared to Jesus, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus renamed him with a title that means "rock." And with that name he gave Peter the mission to be a solid foundation upon which he would build his church. Not Peter's church. Not James or Paul's church. Not Martin Luther's or John Calvin's or anybody else's. This is Jesus' church, the church of Christ himself, that we call the Catholic Church.READ MORE
"O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." This woman was an outsider. She was a Canaanite, not an Israelite, and as such she would have been considered ritually unclean. But she approached Jesus nonetheless and asked for his help. And Jesus used this opportunity to teach his disciples an important lesson.
In the verses directly before today's passage, Jesus had told Peter that what defiles a person comes from the heart, not from ignoring external purity practices. Then, Jesus traveled with his disciples from Galilee to the region of Tyre and Sidon where they were much more likely to encounter someone considered to be unclean.READ MORE
"Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was, he became frightened." How can we describe Peter? At once faithful and fearful, his jumbled responses remind us that he was no spiritual superman, well-intentioned though he may have been. Peter wanted to believe, and in fact showed a great deal of confidence in Christ, but the temptation to doubt was strong enough to knock him off his feet, literally.READ MORE
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." Oh, to be on that mountain! What a priceless experience for Peter, James, and John. If they had ever doubted, if they wondered whether Jesus was really who he said he was, their confidence surely got a boost on the day of the Transfiguration. Before their very eyes, Jesus' divine beauty radiated gloriously while the two ancient prophets also appeared in miraculous manner. And to top it off, the voice of God the Father spoke from the heavens and confirmed that it was all true: Jesus really is the Son of God!READ MORE
"When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it." Jesus today gives us the image of a merchant who knows he has discovered a great treasure. In fact, its value is so tremendous that the man is willing to sell everything else in order to possess it. Why? Because he knows it will all be worth it. He knows that the pearl will bring him more reward than anything else he has ever owned, more even than all his possessions combined.READ MORE
"The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil." This is not a pretty picture. Jesus shares a parable in today's Gospel that reminds us of a truth we would rather forget: evil is real, and the devil is at work. The bountiful harvest of our faith is something that Satan wants to destroy. And he has a host of diabolical tactics to help him carry out his wicked plans. But there is one strategy in particular that we must be on guard against.READ MORE
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold." In the parable of the sower that Jesus tells in today's Gospel, the ideal is to be "the seed sown on rich soil" that yields an abundant harvest. As Jesus explains, this means we should strive to be "the one who hears the word and understands it."
So how do we place ourselves in this category? How do we assure that we will hear God's voice (i.e., the word) and actually understand what lie's saying to us? The answer comes in the parable itself Jesus explains what we need to avoid in order to make sure our seed bears fruit.
First, we must beware of "the evil one" who comes and steals away the seed of God's word. Faithfully praying the Lord's Prayer, with its request to "deliver us from evil," is a good starting point. Placing ourselves under God's protection every day is like taking up a shield against the forces that would seek to derail us.READ MORE
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest." Is there anyone to whom this doesn't apply? Don't we all have to labor at something, whether it be work, school, relationships, household affairs, or personal, emotional, or mental battles? Aren't we all burdened in some way at some time?
Jesus offers us powerful words of consolation in today's Gospel. He promises us rest. He calls all of us to himself, along with the baggage and burdens that we carry, and assures us that we will find relief. Thank God! What a gift for our tired, weary souls.READ MORE