Time for work!

20th Wednesday Ordinary Time – Cycle A

Ez 34:1-11 Psalm Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6 Mt 20:1-16

What does guilt feel like?
When was the last time that you got caught doing something that filled you with a sense of guilt? Perhaps it was speeding on the highway, or as a kid getting caught in some very wrong behavior. I want you to take some time to think back to that sense of guilt that you felt.


Shepherds are being called to task
I wanted you to have that experience in mind today, so you could have solidarity with me – this is how I felt when I listened to the first reading this morning because whenever scripture speaks about shepherds our (we bishops, priests and deacons) ears ought to perk up – because God is speaking to us. I don’t know if you caught it, but the prophet Ezekiel did not have very flattering things to say to us, the clergy this morning. It might leave us feeling guilty about the poor ways that we have gone about living out our ministry as shepherds that God has entrusted to us.

All of us have flocks to care for
But we clerics are not the only people here today with a flock to shepherd, because as parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, we too have those to whom God has entrusted us to shepherd. This means that all of us here ought to experience a certain amount of guilt when we listen to the reading from Ezekiel today.

In truth we cannot dismiss guilt
It is important for us to recognize our own sense of guilt. Modern Psychology has sought to remove the effects of guilt from our lives, because in its wisdom, psychology sees guilt as evil. One of the tools that is often used in this treatment of guilt is that of moral relativism which is the idea is that the truth can be what-ever I make it, so we make justify our behaviors in terms of what we do, and don’t worry about the guilt.

Responding to guilt leads to conversion
The problem with this is that all humans have an innate love of the Truth, and eventually these lies will unravel. Catholics have always viewed guilt as a good thing – because guilt leads us to examine our behavior in the light of the Truth – Jesus Christ. If we have an experience of guilt, then we have an opportunity for conversion, to change our ways.

Taking care of the flock means working in the vineyard
In the Gospel today, Jesus is describing the Kingdom of Heaven in the terms of a Master who is always going out of his vineyard to find new workers to help him in the harvest. It does not matter what the time of day is in our life, God is always coming to us and inviting us to work with Him in His vineyard. The challenge for us workers loafing on the side of the street today is how will we answer his invitation? What work is the Lord calling you and I to do today in His vineyard? How are we called to pasture His sheep?


Use your life to choose life!

19th Saturday Ordinary Time – Cycle A

Ez 18:1-10, 13b, 30-32 Psalm Ps 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19 Mt 19:13-15

God’s gift to man is Freedom

Today’s readings speak about the gift of freedom that we have been given. We have been given freedom to choose what kind of actions we can have in this life. The readings from Ezekiel today speak about the consequences of freedom in our lives. If we use our freedom to choose life in the way that we live then we will live. If on the other hand we use our freedom to choose death, then we will die.

What is true Freedom?

Freedom is not the ability to do anything that I want, but rather it is the ability to see the good, and then the responsibility to choose the good for my life and the life of my children. Ezekiel preaches this morning about the blinding effects of sin, pointing out that sin blinds us from being truly free and encouraging us to free ourselves from sin so that we can live.

Freedom is evidence that God wants us to make a choice (GWUTMAC)
  • GWUTMAC - This is why we have human freedom. We have an ability to freely choose our own actions.
  • GWUTMAC - Out of love, because only out of free choice can we choose to show God our love.
  • GWUTMAC - When we choose to be selfish, when we choose to be sinful, we choose to reject God, an action that separates us from the source of life itself. The consequence of this choice is death.
  • GWUTMAC - He wants us to choose life! To examine the choices that we have made, to act in a way that demonstrates self-less love – in that way we follow Christ.

In what way is the heart of a child ready for the Kingdom of Heaven?
Christ says in today’s Gospel that “The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these…” a child, who is raised in love, whose heart is open to correction, is one who seeks the good of God always. When we choose to have open hearts, then we choose life with our actions. When we choose life in our actions then our lives are filled with joy, happiness and peace. God wants us to make a choice, in our sinfulness we often choose death instead of life. How is Christ calling us to choose life today?


Got Love?

18th Sunday Ordinary Time – Cycle A

Got Love?

Is 55:1-3 Psalm Ps 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18 Rom 8:35, 37-39 Mt 14:13-21

This past week, my wife went and saw the new X-Files movie, and came back and commented to me that it had a very negative portrayal of the Church.

Hollywood gives the Church a bad rap
This movie (the X-Files) gives a typical Hollywood portrayal of the Catholic Church. Without giving away the plot it features two men, one is a former Catholic priest and convicted pedophile who has super-natural visions, the other is a Catholic Priest who opposes a boy from receiving a non-descript stem-cell treatment that the Church considers abhorrent. The movie embroils these characters into conflict with the Church and concludes that the teachings of the church are wrong, and ought to be ignored.

Does this really reflect our family?
In a certain way, I think that this movie is an attempt by the producers and distributors to portray the Church and her teachings as irrelevant to modern day issues, backwards, messed up and mean. It leads us to ask the question - is this an accurate portrayal of the Catholic Church? Is this how our community, our family really is?

Do we answer by making our own movie?
How are we as Christians to answer these serious accusations in the world today? We could on one hand, collect up all of our monies, and go and hire an great director and pay them to make a movie about the Catholic Church that portrayed her in a positive light – but would that be an effective use of our resources? All in favor of a second collection to raise money to make a movie to counter this accusation please raise your hands.


If not then how?
Don’t panic! I think that Jesus wouldn’t raise his hand either. Christ doesn’t want us sitting on our backsides in the pews, He calls us to answer these accusations by being witnesses to the Gospel. But where does the rubber meet the road? How do we do this?

The readings today give us some hints on how we as Christians, disciples of Jesus are to respond to this movie, and all other accusations against the Church. Let’s go through them one at a time.

All who are thirsty come to the water
Isaiah the Prophet invites all who are thirsty to come to the water. Are we thirsty? What are we thirsty for? We are thirsty for the same thing that everyone else in the world is thirsty for – we are thirsty for love;

  • not the kind of love we might have for ice cream or pizza;
  • not the kind of love that we experience from our brothers and sisters;
  • not the kind of love that we experience for our parents or our children;
  • not the kind of love that we have for our husbands or wives.

We thirst for a love that is greater than all of these loves – we are thirst for the Love of God. We thirst to know how special we are in His eyes.

All who have no money…

Isaiah goes on to invite those “who have no money to come receive grain and eat. Come without paying, and without cost”. If we were to literally engage with this passage of scripture we might dismiss it by saying that we have food in the pantry at home, or some money in the bank. What then is the money that Isaiah is referring to? The money that Isaiah is speaking of is the money of love – our ability to show love. He describes us as having no money, because we learn to love in response to our experience of being loved. Isaiah is describing our ability to love when compared to God’s ability of love. God has an infinite ability to love, we are very limited, and so we are poor in comparison to God. It is God who invites us into a relationship of love, to receive His love – to receive from Him freely.

Love illumines our heart – it reveals in us selfishness
Every encounter with the love of God illuminates our hearts. It is in the brightness of God’s love that we are confronted with the question – “Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy?” Where is my love directed? Where do I spend my time? My treasures? My talents? How does my expenditure of time relate to the love that I seek?


Sneaking out of town - imagine Jesus’ day in the Gospel

Have you ever wondered why it took Jesus all day to cure the sick. When I read this Gospel, I imagined that he got up early in the morning, grabbed the disciples and snuck out of town, only to find that when they landed the boat the crowds had followed him. On landing with his disciples, he had pity on the crowds and so he spent his day healing them. This gives us a glimpse of what God’s Love is like. Jesus could have healed them all instantly, but rather he spent the day healing them, by entering into relationship with them, showing them what the Love of God is like – it is relational. God’s love is relational, and when we experience it we are healed!

We are the disciples

Whenever we read scripture about the disciples, we need to pay special attention to them, because we too are disciples of Jesus, and we are called to imitate their actions in our own lives. The disciples come to Jesus and ask him to take care of a problem – feeding the crowd. They even have a suggestion on how God ought to solve this problem that they have (send them away). How many times have we taken our problems to God with a suggested solution?

Christ calls us to action by placing our gifts at His service

Jesus answers them in much the same way that He answers us – He challenges them to action. He says “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” To which they respond that they don’t have enough – five loaves and two fishes. This is where the Gospel and the reading from Isaiah fit together beautifully. We come to God because we are poor in our ability to Love, but if we allow Him, he will take our meager gifts and multiply them a thousand fold. What would the world be like if we placed all our relationships before Christ like the disciples did in today’s Gospel? How much love would we witness to our wives and husbands, our children and parents, our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and friends and enemies?

Christianity is Fire – Christians are Arsonists
A 19th century philosopher once described Christianity as fire, and true Christians as arsonists.

The Fire of Christianity is Love. Love is the key to being united with God. When we allow the love of Christ to dwell in our hearts then our temptation to sin falls away, we live as St. Paul says – without anything separating us from the Love of Christ.

We are called to be like the disciples in the Gospel and place our meager gifts before God, so that He can take them and magnify their effect.

Love is our capacity to hold heat? How hot or cold are our hearts?
John Chrysostum describes our love as the capacity of our hearts to hold heat. Do we allow the love that we experience here with the Eucharist to remain in our hearts throughout this week? Are we hot or cold? Does our heart retain the heat of Christ’s love in a way that is living and effective, that changes how we live our lives? Are we being arsonists?


How does our family answer the accusations of Hollywood? - By sharing the fire of Christ’s love!

When we allow this fire of Christ’s love to penetrate our hearts we become a witness of the Gospel to our families, friends, neighbors and coworkers what true Christianity is about. When we do this in simple, practical ways by offering to mow the neighbors lawn, visiting the sick, those who are homebound or in prison, by holding the door for another, by taking care of the poor, the weak and the suffering. When we do one of these actions we spread the fire of God’s love into the world. This arson of Love is the anti-dote to the accusations made in the movie theater about the nature of Christianity and the Church. What fire is Christ calling you to spread this week?