Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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“Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you.  When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did.”

OPENING PRAYER

The Act of Contrition

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of Heaven, and the pains of Hell; but most of all because I love Thee, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

COLLECT

O God, who manifest your almighty power

above all by pardoning and showing mercy,

bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us

and make those hastening to attain your promises

heirs to the treasures of heaven.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Ez 18:25-28

Thus says the LORD:
You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!”
Hear now, house of Israel:
Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed,
he does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.

APPLICATION

There is something frightening, but yet something very necessary, for each one of us in this reading today. Each one of us is responsible to God for every one of his actions. In the presence of our fellowman we are very much inclined to blame others for our wrong doings, or at least to share the blame with them. But when our actions are judged by God we stand alone, in compete isolation from all others. While it is true that the bad example of parents, or of companions, may play a part in our guilt, it is our will, our personal decision, and not that bad example, that produces a sin. On the other hand, we may be the children of saintly parents and our companions through life may be exemplary Christians, but unless we willingly and knowingly act like them we will not reach heaven. Each man, therefore, is fully responsible for his own actions, and the just God will punish or reward each individual according to his actions.

While it is depressing and disconcerting to learn that the good and holy can turn from God and commit sin, this very thought should make us vigilant and watchful over ourselves and our actions. Knowing our weakness and our general inclination to do what is wrong, should help us to look for help where it can be found—in the bountiful mercy of God. He will never desert the man who is sincerely anxious to serve him. On the other hand, the word of God telling us through the prophet, that a sinner may turn away from his wickedness, should be a great consolation for most of us who have often offended God. God holds no enmity against sinners. He is ever ready to take them back to his bosom. He sends grace after grace to them to help and encourage them to come back to the source and the author of eternal life.

There is not, and there never was, a man on earth who did not want to live on forever if possible. We believers know it is possible because God has told us that he has arranged it so for us. Eternal life, “where tears will be wiped away and death will be no more,” is awaiting each one of us after our earthly death, on the one condition that we die in God’s friendship. As we do not know the moment death will strike us, our only guarantee of dying in God’s friendship is that we live in that friendship always. This we could never do on our own but we are not on our own. God is ever with us to strengthen us, and to pardon and lift us up again, if through human weakness we stumble on the road. Christ has left to his Church the sacrament of reconciliation, by the use of which the greatest sinner can be restored to God’s friendship, if he repents and resolves to mend his ways.

If any Christian dies in his sins and forfeits eternal happiness, he can blame nobody but himself. If, during his time on earth, he refused to accept the mercy and forgiveness God offered him so often, he must now accept the sentence of condemnation which the just judge has to impose on him.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14.

Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.

Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not;
in your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.

Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and teaches the humble his way.

Remember your mercies, O Lord.

READING II

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Phil 2:1-11

Brothers and sisters:
If there is any encouragement in Christ,
any solace in love,
any participation in the Spirit,
any compassion and mercy,
complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love,
united in heart, thinking one thing.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory;
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
each looking out not for his own interests,
but also for those of others.

Have in you the same attitude
that is also in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 201 To Israel, his chosen, God revealed himself as the only One: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”1 Through the prophets, God calls Israel and all nations to turn to him, the one and only God: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. .. To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. ‘Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength.’”2

CCC 411 The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the “New Adam” who, because he “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross”, makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience, of Adam.3 Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the Protoevangelium as Mary, the mother of Christ, the “new Eve”. Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life. 4

CCC 434 Jesus’ Resurrection glorifies the name of the Savior God, for from that time on it is the name of Jesus that fully manifests the supreme power of the “name which is above every name”.5 The evil spirits fear his name; in his name his disciples perform miracles, for the Father grants all they ask in this name.6

CCC 449 By attributing to Jesus the divine title “Lord”, the first confessions of the Church’s faith affirm from the beginning that the power, honor and glory due to God the Father are due also to Jesus, because “he was in the form of God”,7 and the Father manifested the sovereignty of Jesus by raising him from the dead and exalting him into his glory.8

CCC 461 Taking up St. John’s expression, “The Word became flesh”,9 the Church calls “Incarnation” the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. In a hymn cited by St. Paul, the Church sings the mystery of the Incarnation:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.10

CCC 472 This human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge. As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, “increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man”,11 and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience.12 This corresponded to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking “the form of a slave”.13

CCC 520 In all of his life Jesus presents himself as our model. He is “the perfect man”,14 who invites us to become his disciples and follow him. In humbling himself, he has given us an example to imitate, through his prayer he draws us to pray, and by his poverty he calls us to accept freely the privation and persecutions that may come our way.15

CCC 602 Consequently, St. Peter can formulate the apostolic faith in the divine plan of salvation in this way: “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers. .. with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake.”16 Man’s sins, following on original sin, are punishable by death.17 By sending his own Son in the form of a slave, in the form of a fallen humanity, on account of sin, God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”18

CCC 612 The cup of the New Covenant, which Jesus anticipated when he offered himself at the Last Supper, is afterwards accepted by him from his Father’s hands in his agony in the garden at Gethsemani,19 making himself “obedient unto death”. Jesus prays: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. ..”20 Thus he expresses the horror that death represented for his human nature. Like ours, his human nature is destined for eternal life; but unlike ours, it is perfectly exempt from sin, the cause of death.21 Above all, his human nature has been assumed by the divine person of the “Author of life”, the “Living One”.22 By accepting in his human will that the Father’s will be done, he accepts his death as redemptive, for “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”23

CCC 633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.24 Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”:25 “It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.”26 Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.27

CCC 635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”28 Jesus, “the Author of life”, by dying destroyed “him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.”29 Henceforth the risen Christ holds “the keys of Death and Hades”, so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”30
Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. .. He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him – He who is both their God and the son of Eve. .. “I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. .. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.”31

CCC 705 Disfigured by sin and death, man remains “in the image of God,” in the image of the Son, but is deprived “of the glory of God,”32 of his “likeness.” The promise made to Abraham inaugurates the economy of salvation, at the culmination of which the Son himself will assume that “image”33 and restore it in the Father’s “likeness” by giving it again its Glory, the Spirit who is “the giver of life.”

CCC 713 The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.”34 These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.”35 Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.

CCC 876 Intrinsically linked to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry is its character as service. Entirely dependent on Christ who gives mission and authority, ministers are truly “slaves of Christ,”36 in the image of him who freely took “the form of a slave” for us.37 Because the word and grace of which they are ministers are not their own, but are given to them by Christ for the sake of others, they must freely become the slaves of all.38

CCC 908 By his obedience unto death,39 Christ communicated to his disciples the gift of royal freedom, so that they might “by the self-abnegation of a holy life, overcome the reign of sin in themselves”:40
That man is rightly called a king who makes his own body an obedient subject and, by governing himself with suitable rigor, refuses to let his passions breed rebellion in his soul, for he exercises a kind of royal power over himself. And because he knows how to rule his own person as king, so too does he sit as its judge. He will not let himself be imprisoned by sin, or thrown headlong into wickedness.41

CCC 1224 Our Lord voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to “fulfill all righteousness.”42 Jesus’ gesture is a manifestation of his self-emptying.43 The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as his “beloved Son.”44

CCC 1694 Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, Christians are “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” and so participate in the life of the Risen Lord.45 Following Christ and united with him,46 Christians can strive to be “imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love”47 by conforming their thoughts, words and actions to the “mind. .. which is yours in Christ Jesus,”48 and by following his example.49
CCC 1850 Sin is an offense against God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.”50 Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,”51 knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.”52 In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.53

CCC 2635 Since Abraham, intercession – asking on behalf of another has been characteristic of a heart attuned to God’s mercy. In the age of the Church, Christian intercession participates in Christ’s, as an expression of the communion of saints. In intercession, he who prays looks “not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” even to the point of praying for those who do him harm.54

CCC 2641 “[Address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.”55 Like the inspired writers of the New Testament, the first Christian communities read the Book of Psalms in a new way, singing in it the mystery of Christ. In the newness of the Spirit, they also composed hymns and canticles in the light of the unheard-of event that God accomplished in his Son: his Incarnation, his death which conquered death, his Resurrection, and Ascension to the right hand of the Father.56 Doxology, the praise of God, arises from this “marvelous work” of the whole economy of salvation.57

CCC 2812 Finally, in Jesus the name of the Holy God is revealed and given to us, in the flesh, as Savior, revealed by what he is, by his word, and by his sacrifice.58 This is the heart of his priestly prayer: “Holy Father. .. for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.”59 Because he “sanctifies” his own name, Jesus reveals to us the name of the Father.60 At the end of Christ’s Passover, the Father gives him the name that is above all names: “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”61

CCC 2842 This “as” is not unique in Jesus’ teaching: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”; “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”62 It is impossible to keep the Lord’s commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make “ours” the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.63 Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave” us.64

1 Dt 6:45.
2 Is 45:22-24; cf. Phil 2:10-11.
3 Cf. 1 Cor 15:21-22,45; Phil 2:8; Rom 5:19-20.
4 Cf. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus: DS 2803; Council of Trent: DS 1573.
5 Phil 2:9-10; cf. Jn 12:28.
6 Cf. Acts 16:16-18; 19:13-16; Mk 16:17; Jn 15:16.
7 Cf. Acts 2:34 – 36; Rom 9:5; Titus 2:13; Rev 5:13; Phil 2:6.
8 Cf. Rom 10:9; I Cor 12:3; Phil 2:9-11.
9 Jn 1:14.
10 Phil 2:5-8; cf. LH, Saturday, Canticle at Evening Prayer.
11 Lk 2:52.
12 Cf. Mk 6 38; 8 27; Jn 11:34; etc.
13 Phil 2:7.
14 GS 38; cf. Rom 1 5:5; Phil 2:5.
15 Cf. Jn 13:15; Lk 11:1; Mt 5:11-12.
16 I Pt 1:18-20.
17 Cf. Rom 5:12; I Cor 15:56.
18 2 Cor 5:21; cf. Phil 2:7; Rom 8:3.
19 Cf. Mt 26:42; Lk 22:20.
20 Phil 2:8; Mt 26:39; cf. Heb 5:7-8.
21 Cf. Rom 5:12; Heb 4:15.
22 Cf. Acts 3:15; Rev 1:17; Jn 1:4; 5:26.
23 1 Pt 224; cf. Mt 26:42.
24 Cf. Phil 2:10; Acts 2:24; Rev 1:18; Eph 4:9; Pss 6:6; 88:11-13.
25 Cf. Ps 89:49; I Sam 28:19; Ezek 32:17-32; Lk 16:22-26.
26 Roman Catechism 1, 6, 3.
27 Cf. Council of Rome (745): DS 587; Benedict XII, Cum dudum (1341): DS 1011; Clement VI, Super quibusdam (1351): DS 1077; Council of Toledo IV (625): DS 485; Mt 27:52-53.
28 Jn 5:25; cf. Mt 12:40; Rom 10:7; Eph 4:9.
29 Heb 2:14-15; cf. Acts 3:15.
30 Rev 1:18; Phil 2:10.
31 Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday: PG 43, 440A, 452C; LH, Holy Saturday, OR.
32 Rom 3:23.
33 Cf. Jn 1:14; Phil 2:7.
34 Cf. Isa 42:1-9; cf. Mt 12:18-21; Jn 1:32-34; then cf. Isa 49:1-6; cf. Mt 3:17; Lk 2:32; finally cf. Isa 50:4-10 and Isa 52:13-53:12.
35 Phil 2:7.
36 Cf. Rom 1:1.
37 Phil 2:7.
38 Cf. 1 Cor 9:19.
39 Cf. Phil 2:8-9.
40 LG 36.
41 St. Ambrose, Psal 118:14:30: PL 15:1476.
42 Mt 3:15.
43 Cf. Phil 2:7.
44 Mt 3:16-17.
45 Rom 6:11 and cf. 6:5; cf. Col 2:12.
46 Cf. Jn 15:5.
47 Eph 5:1-2.
48 Phil 2:5.
49 Cf. Jn 13:12-16.
50 Ps 51:4.
51 Gen 3:5.
52 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei 14, 28: PL 41, 436.
53 Cf. Phil 2:6-9.
54 Phil 2:4; cf. Acts 7:60; Lk 23:28, 34.
55 Eph 5:19; Col 3:16.
56 Cf. Phil 2:6-11; Col 1:15-20; Eph 5:14; 1 Tim 3:16; 6:15-16; 2 Tim 2:11-13.
57 Cf. Eph 1:3-14; Rom 16:25-27; Eph 3:20-21; Jude 24-25.
58 Cf. Mt 1:21; Lk 1:31, Jn 8:28; 17:8; 17:17-19.
59 Jn 17:11, 19.
60 Cf. Ezek 20:39; 36:20-21; Jn 17:6.
61 Phil 2:9-11.
62 Mt 5:48; Lk 6:36; Jn 13:34.
63 Cf. Gal 5:25; Phil 2:1,5.
64 Eph 4:32.

APPLICATION

The basic dogma of our Christian religion is that Christ, who was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, spent his childhood and youth in Nazareth, traveled through the valleys and over the hills of Palestine preaching the good news of their eternal salvation to men, that he was the Son of God in human nature. During his public life he often claimed to be the Son of God. Because this title has often been given to men, however, and because he was so really human, even his closest disciples did not understand this claim in its real, strict meaning. His enemies noted the claim, but not believing it either, they looked on it as a blasphemous statement and used it as a justification for crucifying him; “we have a law,” the Jews replied to Pilate, “and according to that law he ought to die, because he has claimed to be the Son of God” (Jn. 19: 7).

His resurrection from the dead changed the Apostles and his other followers. His appearance to them convinced them that he was indeed the real Son of God, who had taken human nature in order to raise mankind up to divine sonship and to take away the sins of the world through his sufferings and death. From Pentecost day their one and only mission in life was to bring this good news–the gospel of Christ–to all men. This they faithfully did, in spite of persecutions, sufferings and martyrdom, for what could a shortening of earthly life mean to men who looked forward anxiously to an eternal life.

We of the twentieth century have the same faith which inspired and sustained the first-century Apostles. That faith is solidly built on the same unchangeable truth. In order to carry out the divine Father’s plan to raise mankind to a superhuman status, the status of adopted sonship on earth, Christ the Son of God, took human nature. That adopted sonship was to be followed after death, by a sharing in the eternal kingdom of God. This is the central truth of our Christian religion. This is the basic motivation of our Christian lives. Our kingdom is not of this world, we are living and working for the kingdom prepared for us by God’s eternal and infinite love.

God grant that we will never forget this truth, never cease to thank our divine Lord for all he has done for us. The only true and acceptable thanks we can offer him, is our true appreciation of the honor he has conferred on us through his Incarnation. We are children of God, on our way to our real and lasting home. Our loving Savior has not only opened the door to that eternal home for us, he has shown us very clearly the way to get there and has given us all the helps we need on the way. All he asks of us is to follow the map he gave us and to use the means he left to us. Could we be so ungrateful to our divine benefactor and so forgetful of our own eternal interests as to refuse to do that little? God forbid!

GOSPEL

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Mt 21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
He said in reply, ‘I will not, ‘
but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/100117.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 535 Jesus’ public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan.1 John preaches “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.2 A crowd of sinners3 – tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes- come to be baptized by him. “Then Jesus appears.” The Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my beloved Son.”4 This is the manifestation (“Epiphany”) of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God.

CCC 546 Jesus’ invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching.5 Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything.6 Words are not enough, deeds are required.7 The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word?8 What use has he made of the talents he has received?9 Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to “know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven”.10 For those who stay “outside”, everything remains enigmatic.11

CCC 755 “The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing.”12

1 Cf. Lk 3:23; Acts 1:22.
2 lK 3:3.
3 Cf. Lk 3:10-14; Mt 3:7; 21:32.
4 Mt 3:13-17.
5 Cf. Mk 4:33-34.
6 Cf. Mt 13:44-45; 22:1-14.
7 Cf. Mt 21:28-32.
8 Cf. Mt 13:3-9.
9 Cf. Mt 25:14-30.
10 Mt 13:11.
11 Mk 4:11; cf. Mt 13:10-15.
12 LG 6; cf. 1 Cor 39; Rom 11:13-26; Mt 21:32-43 and parallels; Isa 51-7; Jn 15:1-5.

APPLICATION

This parable was primarily intended to show up the hypocrisy of the chief priests and elders of the Jews, and the perilous position in which they stood in relation to God and heaven. It is, however, a warning against hypocrisy for all time. Lip service of God will not merit heaven. Nominal Christians are not working in the Lord’s vineyard. At any moment they may be called from this life, and what defense can they offer the just judge? Will they dare to offer the flimsy excuses with which they try to silence their consciences now: “we didn’t realize how sinful we were”; “we were too occupied with family and personal cares to have time for our spiritual duties”; “we were led astray by bad example”; “we didn’t like to be different from others”; “we were going to put things right”? Who will dare to offer such excuses at the judgment seat? Their utter futility will then be apparent in all its nakedness.

However, we are still on earth, and while we are, the door of God’s mercy is wide open to us. If in the past we said, “I will not go into your vineyard”, we still have time to reverse that sinful decision. Not only can we with God’s grace turn over a new leaf, but we can completely wipe out the sinful pages of our life’s story written up to now. Remember that what God in his mercy did for the tax-collectors and harlots in the parable, the Matthews, the Mary Magdalenes, the Augustines, the Margarets of Cortona, the Matt Talbots and the millions of unknown penitents who are now saints in heaven he can also do for you.

We answered the call to God’s vineyard by accepting baptism and membership of his Church. If we have grown lax in our fervor and refused to do the tasks allotted to us, we still have time, thanks to God’s mercy and patience, to put things right. Today, look into your conscience and see how much of your past life you have given to God and how much you have kept for yourself. If you were called tonight to render an account to the Lord, would the balance sheet be in your favor? Is our corner of the vineyard producing abundant crops, or is it perhaps filling up with weeds, briers and brambles? If the latter, then we will say a heartfelt: “Thank you, God, for not calling us to judgment today. We will begin right now to understand our sinful past, so that our corner of your vineyard will be in good order when you do call us. Thank you, Lord, for your mercy. God grant that we shall never abuse it.”

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

God is Waiting for Us

In Sacred Scripture, bread represents all that human beings need for their daily life. Water makes the earth fertile: it is the fundamental gift that makes life possible. Wine, on the other hand, expresses the excellence of creation and gives us the feast in which we go beyond the limits of our daily routine: wine, the Psalm says, “gladdens the heart.”

So it is that wine and with it the vine have also become images of the gift of love in which we can taste the savor of the Divine. God created a vineyard for himself – this is an image of the history of love for humanity, of his love for Israel which he chose. God instilled in men and women, created in his image, the capacity for love, hence also the capacity for loving him, their Creator. With the Prophet Isaiah’s canticle of love God wants to speak to the hearts of his people – and to each one of us. “I have created you in my image and likeness,” he says to us. “I myself am love and you are my image to the extent that the splendor of love shines out in you, to the extent that you respond lovingly to me.” God is waiting for us. He wants us to love him” should not our hearts be moved by this appeal? Or will what happened to the vine of which God says in Isaiah: “He waited for it to produce grapes but it yielded wild grapes? Also happen to us? Is not our Christian life often far more like vinegar than wine? Self-pity, conflict, indifference?

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 51

12-17

A pure heart create for me, O God,

put a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from your presence,

nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Give me again the joy of your help;

with a spirit of fervor sustain me,

that I may teach transgressors your ways

and sinners may return to you.

O rescue me, God, my helper,

and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.

O Lord, open my lips

and my mouth shall declare your praise.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,

one world for ever and ever. Amen.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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