Look to the second to gauge the first.

We heard today[1] the continuing plotting by the ruling Jewish religious leaders against Jesus that eventually leads them to kill Him.  But sometimes I think we miss what Jesus is doing to those same leaders.  Jesus’ continues to evangelize those same leaders.  Jesus even tells us why He is doing what He is doing; He loves God and loves His neighbor.

It has been told that Mother Teresa told a reporter once (who had just commented at how wonderful it was that she built her hospital to help people) that she did it because she loves God and He expects nothing less from those who love him. If we love God then we love those around us – regardless.

It is a hard practice, to love everyone; it is probably the one attitude of a disciple that we fail at the most.  Some people don’t make it easy for other people to love them; but for us Christians this failure to love has more to do with us than them.  If Christ, who knows what the Sadducees and the Pharisees were plotting can still love them;  if Christ, who looked forgivingly on those who nailed him to the cross then you and I should be able to open our hearts to those who annoy us, bother us, even openly antagonize us.

St. John, in his first letter, tells us: ‘If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.[2]  He reminds us that Christ gave us a gauge to tell us how well we are living the greatest commandment – by how well be are living the second.

We are drawing to the end of this liturgical year.  The lessons during this time of the year teach us what we need to do as faithful disciples.  Let’s deepen our prayer to the Father for help in following these great commandments – especially the second one.  When we grow in our capacity to love our neighbor we can know that we are growing in our capacity to love God.

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[1] Gospel today -Mt 22: 34-40
[2] 1 Jn 4:40

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Do I Like To Do Laundry?

Most every Sunday evening, as we have just done, Holy Mother Church proclaims Revelation 19:1-7, for her Vesper Canticle.  It is known as the ‘Wedding of the Lamb’ and we celebrate the feast and hope that we can also take part.  Of course we take part in its anticipatory celebration, the Mass, but we look to eternity in hope that we can be there as well.

The first reading from Isaiah[1] beautifully describes this hope.  We hear a wonderful vision of the eternal banquet, the wedding banquet of the Lord; where rich food and wine flows, the veil of sin is no more and death is destroyed – tears will be wiped away. We will finally see what our hearts have yearned for: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us![2]

And the most important thing we hear from Isaiah today is the first line: ‘On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples…[3]  God offers this feast to all.

However, Jesus’ parable[4] to the Pharisees, that we hear today, points out to us that not everyone decides to accept this invitation – a very sad but true actuality.  Just as Adam turned his back to God in the Garden of Eden – mankind turns their back on His perpetual invitation to the heavenly wedding banquet.   Jesus’s parable gave me 2 points of consideration:

In the parable we see that personal possessions and temporal desires can blind us to the importance of this invitation.  Some of the invitees went back to their farm or businesses.  Their narrow and shallow field of vision kept them from seeing what was really of value. Or maybe they felt they had more immediate pressing issues and that they could always accept another invitation in the future.

I have to wonder:
What is my attitude towards this invitation? Do I disregard it for my own self-perceived desires and possessions?  Do I wave it off thinking that I can always accept the Lord’s invitation sometime in the future?

As Jesus continues we learn that just because the people were invited didn’t mean that they could come as they are.  We see that one man hadn’t gone through the custom of wearing a wedding garment; he didn’t prepare.   This might seem a bit harsh to us but Jesus was trying to point out that we need to participate in this invitation. This garment isn’t something that we need to find, it was given to us a baptism. When we are baptized we hear (or at least would if we weren’t infants):

You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ.See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.[5]

This is our participation, to keep this garment pure. It can most certainly be done, it is not impossible – just look at the saints.  Pope Benedict XVI, in a 2008 homily made note of this: ‘In Baptism they received the wedding garment of divine grace, they kept it clean and purified it and made it radiant during their life, through the Sacraments. They are now taking part in the wedding feast of Heaven.[6]

And we can follow them by also participating in the sacraments; Pope Benedict XVI went on telling us: ‘Should it happen that we soil or even tear this garment with sin, God’s goodness does not reject or abandon us to our destiny but rather offers us, with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the possibility of restoring the wedding garment to the pristine state required for the feast.[7]

God has made sure that we can sit at the feast He invites us to with the wedding garment needed.  All we need to do is participate.

Which leads me to the final point: Do I like to do laundry?

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[1] Is 25:6-10a
[2] Is 25:9
[3] Is 25:6
[4] Mt 22:1-14
[5] Rite of Baptism
[6] Pope Benedict XVI, 10/12/2008 Homily at a canonization Mass for 4 saints
[7] ibid

Eternal Truth

In today’s readings[1] it struck me that the first reading from Isaiah and the Gospel were almost duplicates – humorously I noted to Fr. David that Jesus plagiarized Isaiah. Of course, as Fr. David pointed out, it can’t be plagiarism since Isaiah was Christ’s mouthpiece. But it does strike me at how similar the words are – and yet different. Throughout the bible we see the same type similarities between the Old Testament prophecies and Christ’s parables and teachings – just not as obvious as today’s pair.

As I reflected on these readings this week two aspects of this seemingly repetitive message came out.

  1. Mankind is very dense when it comes to what is good for them. Freewill has enabled mankind to turn to what seems easy and fun and away from what is right and good.  But, more importantly, and because of that.
  1. God’s message is eternal, but its delivery is a constantly changing process to better relate to the times and people.

This is very good news – God is constantly trying to evangelize His flock.  He has done so since the fall in Garden of Eden.  He brings His creation the good news of Himself and what it means to be in relationship with Him. He has done so through the prophets, the judges, the kings.  He brought it to its fullness through His Son Jesus Christ; the Eternal Word. He continued, and continues, to bring the message through the apostles and their successors the bishops, and his continuing message shines through the ages with His saints – both known and unknown and most clearly through our Blessed Mother and her apparitions.  And most importantly for us – His message should continue by coming through us!

But how? How are we to go out and evangelize those we encounter? Words don’t suffice, words don’t convince, truly convince – even the Word Himself didn’t rely on His words only.  The other day I heard Archbishop Wenski, of Miami Florida, point this out in a very poignant way, he said (and I paraphrase) Christ didn’t bring the Good News to those He met by first introducing them to the cross, He introduced the Gospel by His words and His actions first – the Cross came later.[2]

Actions, love, concern, joy, something people can see, feel, and desire – this is what brings weight to the Gospel message.  God knows that eternal truth needs continual witnessing, needs to be lived within the society and times of humanity.  He knows that what was written or spoken or lived in Gaul of the 900s will not resonate with the people of England of 1500s or China of the 1980s or with us right now.  Our Heavenly Father depends on us and our lives to continue the Good News.  We, in turn need to rely on His eternal truth to live our lives, and in so doing bring this eternal message to those around us in methods and way relatable to our times and culture.  How?

St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians, that we heard today, gives us valuable insight into how. He urges us to look for ‘whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.

In short keep in touch with God through prayer and holy reading, keep His truths ever in our hearts and minds.  When we do we will know it because of the peace that it brings.  A peace that will enable us to live the witness and bring those we witness to, to the great joy of the Cross.

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[1] IS 5:1-7; PHIL 4:6-9; MT 21:33-43
[2] 2014 Napa Institute Conference 7/24-27/ 2014