Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Christian life is a triangle. God, Others, And Self. We might prefer to think if we led a good life, if we take time to love our God and ourselves, we have done our duty. The community often feels like a deliberately contrived plot to detract us from honoring God and ourselves. It is difficult to demolish this warped version and acknowledge Christian life as triangular. God, Others, and self.
Today’s readings emphasize this triangle. They see neighbors not as necessary evils but as indispensable partners in our common enterprise of loving God. In a sense they demand that we seek to uncover our God in the problems and pains of others. Here there is no either God or, Neighbor; There is only both God and neighbor. The first reading is a selection from the covenant code in Exodus. It is part of God’s communication to Israel on Mount Sinai. Which emphasized the legal obligations of the covenant people. This passage exemplifies incontestable laws; Thus, it was Yahweh speaking directly to his people and confronting them personally about community duties.
Yahweh insists that to honor one’s neighbor is to honor God. To make the point, the text speaks about welfare cases, (widows, orphans, the poor) and those lacking full rights of citizenship. (Aliens). One should not wrong the widow or orphan; otherwise, Yahweh will take immediate action. One should return the cloak of the poor before sunset; otherwise, Yahweh will surely redress the evil. One should not molest or oppress the alien, for Israel experienced this evil as an alien in Egypt.
First Thessalonians is the first writing of the New Testament. (AD 50) In today’s Thanksgiving, Paul describes the interaction of the Christian missionaries and the former Greek pagans. He remarks that the missionaries acted on behalf of the Thessalonians when they shared the Gospel message with them. In turn, this community imitated Paul and his companions despite significant obstacles. Specifically, the Thessalonians left their dead idols and turned to the living God.
Paul notes another dimension of this interaction. In imitating the missionaries. The Thessalonians become the model to all Greece. The Thessalonians, in believing the Good News, shared a relationship not only with God, but also with the community.
Out of the 248 “Thou shalt’s”, and the 365 “Thou shalt not’s” that comprised the commandments in the Torah. Jesus selected just two to answer his inquisitor in today’s Gospel. Love God, (DT 6.: 4 – 5). And love of neighbor (LV 19. 18 ). Jesus acknowledged that these commandments offered the proper spirit which should regulate all other laws. Unlike his source, (Mark. 12. 30 -31 ), who simply takes the two commandments, Matthew remarks that the 1st and greatest commandment is like the second. In addition. Matthew observes that these two commandments are a basic summary of all the scriptures (“all the Law and the Prophets”). Although Matthew sees Jesus as the fulfillment of the law, (5: 17-49), love of neighbor is vital. Indeed, one cannot love God without loving one’s neighbor.
Our God speaks to us for the needs of others. If Christian life is indeed triangular, the hearts in our community have a claim on our time and energy. The oppressed cry out to those of us drastically, dramatically, as they did in Moses ‘s time. The despairing call upon us as realistically as Jesus called upon the hurting people of ancient Galilee. Only the times and the places have been changed,- the needs are as real and painful as ever. We’re urged not to disparage widows and orphans, the poor and the homeless, the immigrants and the minorities -, but to respect them as our sisters and brothers, as in Christ. We are asked not to pity them, but to enable them to lead a truly human life. We are bidden not to laugh at them, but to help them to laugh again. The only adequate, the only incontestable reason for our involvement is that Christian life is a triangle. God, Others, Himself, we are all in this together.
Question – Who are your neighbors? What are you doing for your neighbors? What could you be doing for your neighbors if you love them “with all your soul, and with all your heart with all your mind”.
Question- Have you ever been (or ever felt like you were) an alien in a foreign land? How did you feel? How did you react to kindness from strangers?
29th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A
The Balance Sheet
Don’t cheat- balance your loyalties. We live in a very complex world where in we owe allegiance to different individuals and groups as well as ourselves. We belong to families, local churches, civic groups, ad governments. The delicate art of living consists of aligning our priorities and then giving each the proper degree of attention. From experience we know that problems arise when we do not hold our loyalties in reasonable tension.’
Today’s readings deal with the reality of loyalties. While they admit that life is ray, not black and white, they also contend that the believer must seek to harmonize the varied facets of life. Without providing any mathematic equation, the urge the believer to take a long hard look at this complex world and make honest assessments. They maintain: Don’t cheat- balance your loyalties.
It was only a matter of time before the Persian King Cyrus the Great, would conquer Babylon and thus claim allegiance of Israel’s exiles. Realizing this change in world rule, Second Isaiah offered his audience an interpretation of this historical event that would impact their loyalties. In a daring move, Isaiah spoke of this pagan king as God’s messiah, or anointed. He showed that by grasping his hand Yahweh recognized Cyrus as the legitimate ruler of his people.
Second Isaiah also struck a balance. Yahweh was overlord and Cyrus was servant. Israel had to recognize that Yahweh was the only God- that there can be no compromise. Allegiance to Cyrus must not confuse the fact that Yahweh used the monarch to advance Israel’s future. Though Cyrus demanded loyalty from all his subjects. Israel had to always recall Yahweh’s words: ” I am the Lord, and there is no other” Don’t Cheat- Balance your loyalties.
Matthew notes the duplicity of the Pharisees and the Herodians over the matter of tribute to the emperor. Their plan is to foil Jesus, not to seek after the truth. Hence, though they address Jesus as teacher they do not intend to become his disciples. Entrapment is obviously their purpose, and the question of tribute to the hated Roman oppressors seems well suited to that purpose.
Jesus does not enter into a detailed analysis of the percentages of loyalty due to God and Caesar, Instead, to the embarrassment of his questioners, he acknowledges the principle of loyalty to both. If he had denied tribute to Caesar, he would have appeared as a revolutionary. If he had simply accepted tribute to Caesar, he would have seemed disloyal to devout Jews and the popular crowds. In the end, the would-be foilers learn this timely lesson: Don’t cheat- balance your loyalties.
Home and work, place a significant demand on the believer. Today’s liturgy suggests that the believers must access the loyalty due to family and to career. If family concerns cease to be important and job interests absorb most of the time and energy, the moment has arrived to heed: Don’t cheat- balance your loyalties.
Prayer and socializing also exact loyalties from the believer. Today’s liturgy implies that the believer must confront the allegiance due to God and friends. If private and communal communication with God begins to wane and social activities command and ever-increasing time and commitment, the hour has come: Don’t cheat -balance your loyalties.
What can I do concretely to repay to God what belongs to God? How does giving back to God make me feel richer?
25th Sunday of Ordinary Time
27th Sunday of Ordinary time
Like the last few Sundays, the readings today speak of a vineyard. It is
an excellent time of year to contemplate a vineyard, vines heavy with
grapes waiting to be harvested. But when Jesus speaks in parables,
each element stands for something else. The vineyard we are invited to
contemplate today is not just a large field planted with vines, but our
very home in the Lord. The fruit it produces is not just grapes or wine,
but the kingdom of God made manifest in our world.
Isaiah begins the parable-telling today, establishing the vineyard as the
setting we will revisit throughout the readings. From the first reading
through the psalm and on to the Gospel, we are afforded the chance
to consider the wonderful vineyard that God created for us and what
has befallen it over the course of centuries. May God’s word inspire us
to bear good fruit in the vineyard that is our world.
What specific thing can I do this week to produce fruit for the kingdom of God?