Saturday, September 19, 2020

“I Wish to Give This Last One the Same as You” by Jim Bayne

"I Wish to Give This Last One the Same as You” by Jim Bayne

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts; Let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. (Isaiah 55:6-8)

The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness. The LORD is good to all and compassionate toward all his works. (Psalm 145:8-9)

What if I wish to give this last one the same as youOr am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?  Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Mt 20:16)


Prayer for Generosity 

Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous.

Teach me to serve you as I should,

To give and not to count the cost,

To fight and not to heed the wounds,

To toil and not to seek for rest,

To labor and ask not for reward,

Save that of knowing that I do your most holy will.

--St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)


In last Sunday’s Gospel, the master forgave the servant’s debt.  Sources report that debt was 10,000 talents. The average Jewish worker earned about two talents in an entire lifetime. In this week’s gospel, the vineyard owner pays the worker who worked for one hour the same regular full-day wage to those who worked for the whole day.  This master is generous, but he is not in the same league with last week’s master.  Yet by any measure, he is still very generous. God’s ways are not our ways. How many of us would be as generous as either one of these masters?

Think of “The World” as operating in a transactional way. Work for x number of hours and receive x number of dollars. Put your credit card in the slot and buy x gallons gas at x dollars per gallon. As we see in today’s gospel, God does not operate in a transactional mode. God’s ways are not the ways of the world by any stretch of the imagination. Few of us could afford to be as generous as this master, but most of us could probably afford to be a little more generous than we are.

The current awakening to the racial injustice which has plagued our country since its founding can and should allow us to be more generous. 

The following words adapted from Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1967 book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? appeared in the special King issue of The Atlantic magazine:

The real cost lies ahead. The stiffening of white resistance is a recognition of that fact. The discount education given Negroes will, in the future, have to be purchased at full price if quality education is to be realized. Jobs are harder and costlier to create than voting rolls. The eradication of slums housing millions is complicated far beyond integrating buses and lunch counters.

Here we are, 53 years after Dr. King wrote and delivered these words, and we as a nation have still not been willing to pay the price necessary to create a country in which we can genuinely say, “all men are created equal” and in which treats all men, women, and children equally.

Repairing the damage done by centuries of racial injustice is one of the issues requiring us as a nation and as individuals to respond with love and generosity.

While the abortion rate reached a historic low in 2017, there are still hundreds of thousands of abortions each year.

Scientists around the world tell us that climate change is the most significant issue of our time. The events of this past week would seem to give evidence of the truth of this assessment. I read this week that 25% of the CO2 emitted from each tank of gas we burn will still be in the atmosphere 10,000 years from now (The Long Thaw by David Archer). Think about that.

These are just three areas in which we Americans, in the wealthiest country on earth, have an opportunity to be loving and generous like the vineyard owner and support our brothers and sisters in need here and around the world.


As a nation, are we loving and generous enough to repair the damage done by centuries of racial injustice?

As a nation, are we loving and generous enough to provide adequate medical care, jobs, housing, and education so that poor people can afford to have babies and raise them in healthy environments?

As a nation, are we loving and generous enough to adopt and raise the hundreds of thousands of unwanted children that will otherwise be aborted each year?

As a nation, are we loving and generous enough to deal with climate change and accelerate the process of repairing the damage we have done to our world?

Responding to any of these issues will require most of us to do with less to serve the common good better. Are we loving and generous enough to do so?

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Sustained at the Cross by Faith By Beth DeCristofaro


Sustained at the Cross by Faith By Beth DeCristofaro

Thursday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time


(Christ) was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures … After that he appeared to James, then to all the Apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. For I am the least of the Apostles, not fit to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. (1 Corinthians 15:4, 8-10)


So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”    “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:47-48, 50)





Fire of the Spirit, life of the lives of creatures,
spiral of sanctity, bond of all natures,
glow of charity, lights of clarity,
taste of sweetness to sinners--
be with us and hear us.

Composer of all things,
light of all the risen,
key of salvation,
release from the dark prison,
hope of all unions, scope of chastities,
joy in the glory, strong honor--
be with us and hear us.

  (St Hildegard of Bingen)



Our church has changed and grown from groups of friends meeting, worshiping and learning around tables to millions of stranger-friends meeting in humble or grand houses of prayer spanning the globe.  We join our ancestors and others by our faith in Jesus, divine being who chose the identity of humble peasant-rabbi.  Yet we struggle with forgiving ourselves as much as they did.  They strove to earn his mercy while he time and time again showed them that he confers mercy freely, generously.  


In this time of CoVid, perhaps we can take the opportunity to exercise faith in his freely offered generosity.  Many of us are bereft right now of practices dear to us:  Eucharist, in-person Group Reunion, Liturgies, rosary and prayer shawl groups.  Even the comfort and support of informally gathering with friends who share values and the desire for God. It is a time of loss, a community stretched. Yet Jesus cannot be locked out; he remains intimately our friend.  He remains closer to us than our breath through the Holy Spirit, igniting us wherever we are.


We began this week with the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross, a tragedy chosen by God to lift and free us from the grips of sin and death.  We then celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrow whose willingness to stand firm in her faith as she was dealt the devastating blow of watching her son tortured and murdered on that Cross is a model of reliance on God.  Perhaps she questioned God; we do not know.  What we know is that she did not turn away and renounce God; she remained faith-filled in her greatest hour of agony.  The Cross and Our Lady show us the triumph – albeit possibly terribly won – of the disciple who accepts her / his cross and stands firm, aided by Him who died and rose in order to give us his Spirit, freedom, mercy and forgiveness because he loves us.  We are not victims. We are his beloved.




What new insights are we open to in our “lockdown,” our “prison,” such as held Peter and Paul?  Rather than decry the “loss” of church – which is only restricted in numbers – are we building Church in our homes and tiny gatherings?  Have we found new space in our hearts for the fire of the Holy Spirit to flare? Rather than simmering over being kept out of church, can we invite our blessed Redeemer into the sanctuary of our own hearts?  Ask for the grace to experience God’s mercy and forgiveness as did Paul, the least of the Apostles, not fit to be called an Apostle 


And perhaps say a prayer for the many unable to practice their faith in usual rituals due to other reasons than CoVid – illness, war, incarceration, housed in refugee or migrant camps, or who have no community with which to share.




Illustration: “Cosmic Egg”, vision of St. Hildegard of Bingen, (feastday 9/17/2020)

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

“Agape – Unconditional Love” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“Agape – Unconditional Love” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Memorial of Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs

Brothers and sisters:  Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.  But I shall show you a still more excellent way.  Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.   (I Corinthians 12:31, 13:4-7)

Jesus said to the crowds: “To what shall I compare the people of this generation?  What are they like?  They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance.  We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’  For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’  The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’  But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”  (Luke 7:31-35)


Lord, may the love You have for me be the sort of love I show to my brothers and sisters.


In his letter to the Christian community at Corinth, St. Paul has been writing about spiritual gifts and the fact that no one gift ranks above any other.    In today’s verses, he changes course slightly and begins to talk of a “more excellent way,” love for one another, which is the sign that Christ’s spirit is present in any community.   The love the Apostle describes is agape love or unconditional love.  This is the type of love God has toward each of us; it isn’t dependent on our response.  God loves us whether or not we love God in return.  That, in turn, is how God hopes we will love one another.

Evidently, this type of love was in scarce supply in the Corinthian church.  Unfortunately, some days it appears that not much has changed over the centuries.   From the congregational level right on up to the Curia in Rome, we can find jealousy and envy, arrogance, rudeness, promotion of self-interest, long-held grudges over past hurts and wrongdoing.  We are not always kind; we tend to regard people with ideas or skin color different from our own with suspicion and distrust.  We live and worship in the midst of a society that itself is fractured at many points. 

If agape is the desired goal, our hearts are going to need transformation.  In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus expresses frustration about how very difficult it is to reach our hearts.  He spends his time in towns and villages, talking to people, healing their ills, and going to their homes for meals.  But is he truly accepted? Is he greeted with smiles and open arms?  Maybe by some, but others label him a glutton and a drunk, and say he hangs out with sinners and outcasts, lowlifes with whom no one should associate.  Ultimately the people threatened the most by him nail him to a cross and execute him.

No matter what tune God plays for us, there are always those who don’t want to dance to it.  Transformation of our hearts is no easy thing to achieve.  To change, we have to follow the Lord of the dance wherever he leads, and, if we’re honest with ourselves, some days the melodies of the world sound a whole lot more enticing.  But when we cover our ears and refuse to sway to the divine melody, we miss out on that wondrous mystery, Christ our Savior, about whom Paul so eloquently writes in all his letters.   A person could spend a lifetime pondering the depths of the mystery of salvation and never fully comprehend it, but to turn our backs on the song that leads us there is a tragedy.


Every one of us can recall situations where our attitudes and actions have proven a detriment to the sort of love Paul describes.  In our prayers today, we can offer our hearts, whatever shape they’re in, to the Lord.  We can beg God to do whatever needs to be done so we can love others the way God in Christ loves us.