01 October 201726 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
26 Ordinary Time
Twenty-Sixth Sunday of the Year
A Cycle - Matthew 21:28-32

A man was confined to his bed at home. A priest came to see him. After his visit, he said, "I'll pray for you." The cripple replied, "I can pray for myself. If you want to help me, you can take out the garbage and do the laundry." Christians, we are advised, should be audiovisual aids designed to teach other people how to live. Our lives should suggest we are already living in Heaven. We should be angels for each other. Today's parable was one of three parables Christ spoke in His last days. They are known in history as the Parables of Rejection. This day's Gospel was the first and shortest of the melancholy three. They are tough parables. Jesus delivered them right from the shoulder. He did not use diplomatic language. Put yourself in His sandals. He had but hours to live. Would you not tell it like it is? Or would you play happy camper?

Today's four verse parable has been called the Better of Two Bad Sons. The meaning is clear. Number one son, who said no to his father but who went and did what his father wanted, is a type for sinners. When they run into the Nazarene, they change their lives. They throw their lot in with Him. Matthew, today's author, had been such a slug and so knows what he's writing about. Number two son, who says yes to the father but does not deliver, is a stand-in for the religious authorities of the day who were long on words but short on deeds. When the Son of God came in the person of Christ, these folk were anxious to terminate Him. In the final roundup, it is only by deeds that we prove what we are.

It is only by actions that we establish whether we are genuine or faux. In the Middle Ages, a knight sought from his lady difficult deeds to perform. They both knew that words were but a nickel a bushel. "Words," said one crusty farmer, "aren't worth a barrel of spit." Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that the first part of the paper he read was the sports section. He wanted to read about people doing something rather than politicians promising something. In the early centuries, the Church was called "the new way." (Acts 9:2)

If you followed Jesus, it was not a question of memorizing the catechism or reciting the Ten Commandments. Rather your WAY of life would establish whether you possessed Tom Wolfe's celebrated right stuff or not. In the rules laid down by Jesus, the mouth can never be a substitute for performance. "My life," said Gandhi, "is my message." Christ wants each of us to be able to speak that statement. The greatest handicap to Jesus the Christ is the nasty lives of so many Christians. Each of the baptized is a flashing neon advertisement for the Church. If our lives fit our mouths, Christ wins. But, if our conduct reflects the morals of a sleazy money lender cheating widows, Jesus loses. The monk says words and deeds should speak the same language.

Heads of state send large pictures of themselves to regions where they cannot visit. And we, who follow Christ, must be His large pictures wherever we find ourselves. We must function as His ambassadors. A preacher asked his congregation, "When people get to know you, do they want to learn about Christ?" An ugly question that but an essential one! Walker Percy, the National Book Award novelist, joined the Church after watching one of his college roommates rise daily at dawn and go to Mass. Example is always the best sermon. If Christians do something worthwhile, they throw a no hitter for Christ. Shakespeare exults, "How far that little candle throws his beams. So shines a good deed in an evil world." It is sobering to reflect that our lives attract or repel people to Christ.

The line that teaches, "I cannot hear what you say because I am too busy listening to what you are!" says it all. Neither of the parable's sons is satisfactory. Both hurt their father. True the son who said no and obeyed was better. But he was no great shakes. What the Teacher shoots for is a follower who says, "Yes, Lord!", from day one and hops into the fast lane and delivers. Lighthouses by definition make no noise. They just shine. That's our job. Christ, it is said, is not a psychiatrist. He is a cardiologist. He listens not to words but to hearts. A man on retreat was given paper cut outs to represent shoes. On them was written the stark message, "You are a sermon in shoes." 
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
26 Ordinary Time
27th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Scoreboard!

I want to speak today about scoreboard, collaborators, blue collar sinners, you and me. First of all, scoreboard. I love sports. I have tickets for the BUCS. I am a rabid Yankee fan. I like tennis, and sometimes I'll even watch golf, although I am not sure that golf is a sport. Like all sport fans, I speak with absolute authority on what should have taken place the day after the game. A former parishioner of ours, the late Jim Fregosi, had been an all star professional baseball player and the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies. Jim once told me that part of the fun of sports and a goal of every good franchise is for everyone watching to feel that he or she is an expert in the game. There are certainly a lot of experts in the Tampa Bay area.

We have radio stations with non stop analysis of every move that the coach makes, what he should have done last Sunday and what he'll never be able to do this Sunday. I guess that's all fun, but none of it matters a bit. All that matters is scoreboard. The term scoreboard refers to the final score of the game. If a team wins, no matter how well or poorly one or more players appear to have played, the winning team has scoreboard. If someone says, the quarterback threw two interceptions and only completed seven passes, the quarterback can still say, "But I have scoreboard. I won." There is no argument to that. And the Lord said to the chief priests and elders of the people, "tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of heaven before you." They may have made huge mistakes in their lives. They may have been terrible sinners. But they responded to the call of the Lord. You chief priests and elder of the people didn't respond to the Lord. The tax collectors and prostitutes have won the game of eternal life. They have scoreboard. Now, about collaborators and blue collars sinners. The tax collectors and prostitutes were white collar and blue collar sinners.

The tax collectors were collaborators with the pagan Roman occupiers of Israel. They had a nice, clean job, being paid handsomely by the Romans for determining how much each of the people had to pay. Worse than this, they were cheats who usually assessed the people more than they gave the Romans, thus further lining their own pockets. All this, of course, was enforced by the Roman soldiers standing behind them. Levi was a tax collector. He was a white collar sinner. He collaborated with the pagans against his own people and God's people. But when Jesus called Levi, he left his table, changed his life and name. He became Matthew, the saint whose feast we celebrate September 21st. By the end of his life this once sinful collaborator as well as many of his companions who responded to the Lord had scoreboard over the so called righteous leaders of the people.

The prostitutes who followed Jesus also had scoreboard. They were blue collar sinners. Theirs was not a life of white collar comfort. They had to work hard to make a living by drawing others into sin. They accepted being treated poorly for the sake of the money they were given. But so many of them changed their lives when they were called by the Lord. Even though they had been terrible sinners, they ended up in the Kingdom of Heaven. That's scoreboard. The first son of the Gospel parable had scoreboard. Maybe he did not immediately respond to his father's call, but he did go to the vineyard and work there. His brother didn't. He spoke a good game, but the final score was Son number one: 1, Son number two: 0. All of this is an introduction to something we need to recognize: as long as we are doing our best to respond to Jesus's call, to God's will for us, we have scoreboard.

Too many of us are down on ourselves for our past lives. Many of us can truthfully say, "I have made major mistakes. I have been a sinner." But we are here now. We are doing our best to follow the Lord. We try our best to take what we have receive here, the strength of Christ, the power of the Gospel, and integrate this into our daily lives. We may have been sinners, but we are trying our best now. You and I need to stop beating ourselves up. We need to remember that the changes that we have put into our lives have given us scoreboard. In today's first reading, from the prophet Ezekiel, this question is posed: "Are God's way's unfair? Is he wrong to condemn a virtuous man who turns to a life of sin or reward a sinful man who turns to virtue?"

The answer is that those who win the race, win. Those who stop running, lose. I often mention to people that it would be easier for us in our lives if we would just run directly from the starting line to the finish line. But we are human beings. We run off course at times. What matters, is that we get to the finish line even if our Guardian Angels have to work overtime to convince us to get there. What must it have been like for Levi the tax collector, who was now Matthew, or for Mary Magdalene, the former prostitute who was now dear to God, what must it have been like for them and others like them to stand with Jesus? Were they self conscious? Did they agree with the elders and chief priests that they did not belong in the presence of a holy man? Or did they recognize that this man called Jesus had drawn them away from whom they were to become who they are, committed followers of God?

They deserved to stand with the Lord because they had responded to his choice of them and had in turn chose him. And yes, people could look down on their past, because they were sinners. But they were no longer sinners, they were now followers of Christ. What must it have been like for them to stand with the Lord? It must have been wonderful. All that mattered was him and the wonderful future of love, eternal love and eternal life, that he gave them. The past no longer mattered. The scorn of the chief priests and elders of the people no longer mattered. All that mattered was Jesus. So also, for you and for me. We cannot let our pasts destroy us. We have to focus in on the Lord in whose presence we move and live and have our very being. We have to stop beating up on ourselves for the past. We have to ignore the comments of people who want to throw our past mistakes in our faces. We have to be concerned about one thing and one thing only: being in the presence of Jesus forever. If we do this, we will have scoreboard.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
26 Ordinary Time
Mercifully Fair (October 1, 2017)

Bottom line: What matters is our final state before God. And you can count on this: God's way is perfectly and mercifully fair. This Sunday's Gospel has a message similar to last Sunday: What counts is our final state. Jesus teaches that what matters is not how long a person has worked in the vineyard, but whether he's at work in the vineyard at the end of the day. Today we hear that a person might say "yes" to God and later lose his soul by disobedience. On the other hand a person might say "no" to God, but later save his soul by an act of obedience. Some people ask: How can a choice a person makes at the end of life determine where he spends eternity? God has a counter question: "Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?" (cf. Ez 18:25)

When a person looks at life as a whole, God's fairness comes through. During our entire life we are molding ourselves - or allowing ourselves to be molded - into a particular shape. While this process is going on we might be only dimly aware of what is happening, but at the end it will become clear. To illustrate consider the novel - The Portrait of Dorian Gray. It tells about a handsome young man who envies his own portrait because it will never grow old. Well, as the story develops, Dorian retains his youth and beauty even though he embarks on a self-centered and cruel life. After many years he encounters the portrait. While Dorian remained outwardly beautiful, his portrait has changed. Dorian sees the hideous face and realizes that it represents his true inner self. Out of shame and rage he attacks the painting. When people hear the commotion, they come running.

They discover the portrait in its full original beauty. Next to the portrait they see the body of an old man, horribly disfigured - repulsive to all. Perhaps Oscar Wilde learned a lesson from his own novel. He did things that scandalized, even repulsed, his contemporaries, yet he made a good end - repenting and receiving the sacraments.* The change, however, was not as dramatic as it appeared. I encourage you to read "The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde" by Joseph Pearce. He shows how Wilde had a longstanding attraction to Christ and to the Catholic faith. His contemporaries saw one thing on the outside, but God saw something different inside Oscar Wilde. He was making small choices that molded him - or allowed himself to be molded - in ways others could not imagine. Changes that even he imagined only dimly. It all came together at the time of his death. During this life we are like moist clay: by our choices we can be molded into almost any shape. But death is like putting the clay into the fire. The clay might be a beautiful vase or a misshapen lump. Whatever form it has will last forever. Similarly with our souls: at the moment of death we will either be turned toward God or away from him. When you think about, there are really only two moments that matter: the present moment and the final one. In the Hail Mary we say, "pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death." At the last moment - the hour of our death - our eternal fate will be sealed.

The moment of our death is in God's hand, the moment we can control is now. At some point the two moments will coincide: the hour of death will be now. There will be no tomorrow to plan for - or to postpone repentance. Begin now to allow God to mold you as you desire to be for eternity. What counts is not the image that others perceive. What matters is our final state before God. And you can count on this: God's way is perfectly and mercifully fair. Amen. ********** *

Fr Cuthbert Dunne gives this account: "As the voiture rolled through the dark streets that wintry night, the sad story of Oscar Wilde was in part repeated to me... Robert Ross knelt by the bedside, assisting me as best he could while I administered conditional baptism, and afterwards answering the responses while I gave Extreme Unction to the prostrate man and recited the prayers for the dying. As the man was in a semi-comatose condition, I did not venture to administer the Holy Viaticum; still I must add that he could be roused and was roused from this state in my presence. When roused, he gave signs of being inwardly conscious... Indeed I was fully satisfied that he understood me when told that I was about to receive him into the Catholic Church and gave him the Last Sacraments... And when I repeated close to his ear the Holy Names, the Acts of Contrition, Faith, Hope and Charity, with acts of humble resignation to the Will of God, he tried all through to say the words after me."
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
26 Ordinary Time

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic
Matthew 21: 28-32

Gospel Summary
In today's gospel, Matthew shows his concern for the crisis that was caused by the message of Jesus and the consequences that result from reaction to that crisis. At a time of crisis, one must make crucial decisions, which lead in turn to fateful consequences. In today's gospel parable, the vineyard stands for God's people and the two sons represent those who are called to care for them. The first son represents the established religion, which was in place when Jesus came. As often happens in such cases, the religious leaders of that time paid lip-service to the God of mystery but, when Jesus came in a way they had not expected, they were unable to accept the mysterious ways of God, The second son stands for the "outsiders;' including Gentiles, who had been accustomed to saying "No" to God but, having been chastened by their experience of sinfulness, responded positively to the challenge of Jesus. They were joined by the "tax collectors and prostitutes? who, though despised by the religious types of that time, were more humble and therefore more open to the message of Jesus. The point is that pride and smugness are far greater obstacles to true conversion than a sinful past ripe for repentance.

Life Implications
Most mainstream religions have developed elaborate rituals and clear moral guidelines to help their members to establish and maintain a good and fruitful relationship with God. This is surely a responsible and praiseworthy provision since it is so easy to lose one's balance in matters of religion. All this becomes problematic, however, when one's relationship with God is reduced primarily to observing rituals and keeping rules. Such behavior is readily sanctioned by society and it is, of course, much preferred to unruly and destructive actions. But such religious behavior can remain very superficial, focusing only on external observance and appearances rather than on deep and personal conversion. The Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' day certainly appeared more religious than the tax collectors and prostitutes. However, their strict observance hid a deep and fatal flaw, which was self-righteousness, expressed most often in rash judgment. It should be obvious that Jesus is not suggesting that we ought to despise ritual and disregard moral codes. But it is just as obvious that he not only wants us to say the right things (like the first son), but also to act in a way that benefits others (like the second son). This will happen only when we are truly converted from selfish ways and become exemplary in tolerance, compassion and forgiveness. Sometimes people are repelled by a religious observance that has no depth and is in fact accompanied by questionable behavior. However, if they look a bit more closely, they will see that there are also observant believers whose behavior is perfectly in harmony with their faith. It is easy to be scandalized if that is what one wants. Scandal can be taken as well as given! And one may easily look for such scandal simply in order to have an excuse for not being a truly moral person. The ideal remains a faithful observance of rituals and rules accompanied the kind of motivation that is presupposed by such observance. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Modern
Matthew 21: 28 -32

This passage begins with Jesus asking the chief priests an elders a seemingly simple questions. He does so in the way of a simple illustration. A father asks his first son to help in the vineyard, this son says, "I will not, but then ends up going out to help. The second son says, "Yes, sir,? but did not help. The question is, "Which son did the will of his father" Obviously, the first son is the one who did the will of the Father. Jesus then compares the tax collectors and prostitutes to the first son, who initially said he wouldn't help the father, but then came to a realization of how important it was to do the father's will and goes out to the vineyard. The tax collectors and prostitutes where struggling with living their faith. They took the struggle seriously and eventually end up experiencing God's mercy, Conversion, and the grace to do the will of the Father. We see this numerous times throughout the Gospels when the tax collectors and sinners seek out Jesus, welcome him to their homes for a meal, and after listening to him repent and change their ways. This process might take a while, but eventually it bears fruit and we see their conversions. Meanwhile, Jesus goes on to compare the second son who says the right things to the scribes and Pharisees. Like the second son, they quickly respond that they will do God's will, but don't show up to do it. Elsewhere in the Gospel Jesus describes them as having "ears, but do not hear, and eyes, but do not see." They seem to be blinded and deaf to the reality that professing our faith and living our faith are two different things. It is somewhat easy to make a profession of faith, but going out and actually living it can be a different matter. They lacked an openness to God's presence, and when challenged to look at their lives refuse to do so. They apparently see no need for true mercy in their lives, let alone an openness to conversion.

Each of us can ask ourselves how open we are to doing the will of the Father in our lives. Do we say, "yes" to the Father, and also show up to do our work? Expressing our desire to live the faith and to actually do so is something that we all struggle with. Each time we go to confession we pray an act of contrition, and in most forms we say something like this, "I firmly resolve with the help of your grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin." We have the right desire to do the Father's will and we express that, however we seem to repeatedly fall into sin. We don't want to sin, we want to resist temptation, yet we continue to find ourselves sinning. Saint Paul put this rather nicely in his letter to the Romans, "I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate." Paul goes on ask how he can get through this. He ends this portion with this beautiful answer; "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord." We cannot save ourselves, only Jesus can save us. We can learn from both sons in the Gospel today. We should have the initial desire expressed by the chief priests and elders to do God's will, and we should have the spirit of conversion of the tax collectors and sinners to actually to his will.

Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
26 Ordinary Time
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Parable of the Two Sons which is unique to the Gospel of Matthew is probably one of the most easily understandable of all the parables of Jesus. It describes a situation we can all identify with and one that we surely all have experienced. It is a parable about obedience and disobedience. It is about compliance and rebellion. It is about changing one's mind in a positive way and changing one's mind in a negative way. It is fundamentally about the choices we make in life. Yes, we can all identify with the basic story and we can certainly recognise times in our lives, particularly in our childhood, when we have played the roles of first one brother and then the other. And every parent can see their own children doing the same sorts of thing and it probably irks them greatly. But if the parents are even moderately mature they don't get too upset because they know that children need from time to time to rebel and exercise their independence and understand that in time the children will learn from their actions and so grow in maturity. Parents also realise that on other occasions their children will appear to be obedient and compliant but then neglect to do what they have promised.

The parents understand that this is a form of passive-aggression and that this too is something that children will grow out of on their way to full adulthood. But of course, these kinds of attitudes are certainly not restricted to children or teenagers. We frequently meet people in the workplace who exhibit similar behaviour and often enough we find ourselves on occasion doing the same sorts of things. From time to time we need to reflect on our outward behaviour and gradually put in check such immature attitudes in order to grow into our full stature as mature human beings. Although we also recognise that it is much easier to spot these things in others than it is to see them in ourselves. Important though these issues are, we realise of course that the parable is intended by Jesus to work at an entirely different level. When Jesus asks the Priests and Elders, "Which of the sons did the father's will" we realise that he is actually talking about how his listeners are behaving in relation to the will of God the Father. Clearly Jesus is implying that they are like the second son in the story who says that he will do his father's will but actually does not.

And he contrasts their behaviour to that of tax collectors and prostitutes who have repented and received John's baptism. It seems that Jesus chooses these two groups of people to deliberately irk the Chief Priests and Elders. Both groups are guilty of serious sin: the tax collectors because they cheat and extort money from the people and the prostitutes because they are guilty of sexual licentiousness. We can se how these two types of sin would be particularly abhorrent to the priests and anyone connected to the Temple. But these two groups also represent something else deeply repellent; namely collaboration with the Romans, the occupying power, the colonisers. The tax collectors are gathering money for the Roman authorities and the prostitutes are providing other kinds of services for their soldiers. Both are therefore collaborators, both are betraying the nation. This Gospel text today is actually the second of three consecutive parables about vineyards presented to us in the Lectionary. Last week we heard the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard and next week we are presented with the Parable of the Tenants of the Vineyard.

All three of these parables are clearly addressed to the Jewish authorities and are meant to expose their deep hypocrisy and their ultimate refusal to accept Jesus as the Messiah and the message of his Gospel. As we see from the pages of the Gospel this annoys them intensely and arguably provokes them into the actions which led to the death of Jesus. It might be said that by deliberately challenging the religious authorities Jesus is bringing forward his death on the Cross. But while this might be partly true we can never say that he was in some perverse way responsible for his own death. Jesus maintains his integrity throughout his ministry, he remains true to the values of the Kingdom and he speaks out because he simply cannot remain silent. It could be said that by using parables he was being remarkably restrained, because by means of parables he was telling the truth but in a veiled way. Through reflecting on the deeper meaning of the parables the truth gradually dawns on the Chief Priests and the Pharisees, it exposes their own inconsistencies and their use of religion to achieve power and their own self-aggrandisement.

The only trouble with the use of parables by Jesus is that they echo down through the generations with just as much power as when they were first spoken, and they challenge us modern day hearers just as much as they challenged the people of his own day. These parables sit in judgement on us even as we are gathered here around this altar. They are addressed to you and to me right now. And if we are guilty of hypocrisy they will surely find us out. Yes, they will find us out and yet they also provide us with a way out and this is admirably put in the very last line of today's Gospel: "think better of it and believe in him." God always gives us the chance to think better of our words and actions and attitudes; he always reaches out to us, and he always invites us to repent of our errors and to believe in him. God is constantly there for us showing us the true path. Even in our most deeply sinful moments, even in our times of most profound doubt and rejection, he is there holding out his hand to us, inviting us to have faith and trust in him. He wants above all for us to accept his Gospel of love and to begin to live a new and better life; a life of integrity, faith and justice.
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