Readings & Reflections: Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time & Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest September 23,2014

Readings & Reflections: Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time & Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest September 23,2014

St. Pius of Pietrelcina: Born of poor parents in Pietrelcina, Italy, Francesco entered the Capuchins at the age of sixteen, taking the name Pio. In 1918 he received the visible stigmata, the wounds of Christ. For the next fifty years, pilgrims flocked to the convent of San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio reconciled many to Christ in the confessional. He bore physical sufferings and continual scrutiny, entrusting himself to Our Lady of Grace – “my little Blessed Mother: he called her. “Pray, hope, and don’t worry,” he counseled. “Worry is useless. God is merciful and he will hear your prayer.” He died in 1968 and was canonized in 2002 A.D.

 AMDG+

Opening Prayer

“Lord, I believe and I profess that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Take my will, my life, and all that I have, that I may be wholly yours now and forever.” In your Mighty Name, I pray. Amen.

Reading 1
Prv 21:1-6, 10-13

Like a stream is the king’s heart in the hand of the LORD;
wherever it pleases him, he directs it.

All the ways of a man may be right in his own eyes,
but it is the LORD who proves hearts.

To do what is right and just
is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

Haughty eyes and a proud heart–
the tillage of the wicked is sin.

The plans of the diligent are sure of profit,
but all rash haste leads certainly to poverty.

Whoever makes a fortune by a lying tongue
is chasing a bubble over deadly snares.

The soul of the wicked man desires evil;
his neighbor finds no pity in his eyes.

When the arrogant man is punished, the simple are the wiser;
when the wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.

The just man appraises the house of the wicked:
there is one who brings down the wicked to ruin.

He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself also call and not be heard.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 119:1, 27, 30, 34, 35, 44
R. (35) Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.

Blessed are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous deeds.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
The way of truth I have chosen;
I have set your ordinances before me.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Give me discernment, that I may observe your law
and keep it with all my heart.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Lead me in the path of your commands,
for in it I delight.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
And I will keep your law continually,
forever and ever.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.

Gospel
Lk 8:19-21

The mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him
but were unable to join him because of the crowd.
He was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside
and they wish to see you.” He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection 1 – My mother and my brothers and sisters

What do you think Jesus meant when He said:  “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act upon it.”

Jesus wanted to establish in our hearts that our relationship with Him should always be founded on faith in God and His Word and nothing else. It should never be premised on earthly bonds which in time may change and wear out according to one’s human and emotional disposition.  And when we hear His Word we need to respond to it with our whole heart and mind.

When our children were younger, they would periodically ask why we go to church on Sundays. Stella and I would explain that as Catholics we all get together in church on the Lord’s Day to thank Him for all the blessings He has given us. Their response would be, ” we can also show our gratitude right here at home.” Now that they are all adults, at times, it has been more of a task to convince them to attend Sunday service. There seem to be an internal strife within them-whether to go to church on Sunday or sleep it out the entire day.

Like them, at times, I too struggle with my own duties as a Christian… go to our community’s Friday worship amidst my hectic Friday schedule or go to community meetings and teachings or even visit a sick neighbor and friend.  Amidst my desire to respond to God’s call to be a dedicated and devout disciple, I also experience periodic ugly squabbles and division within myself.

Today, Jesus reminds me that I should not only strike a balance between giving thanks to God, doing good to others and ministering to His brethren but to be firm at all times with them for it is the only way by which I can be known as His disciple. I should always be able to respond to His call with a faithful and unwavering, “Yes Lord, sent me! Yes Lord, I am ready to do your will!”

If I am able to do this and follow Jesus and His plan for me then I become mother, brother and family to our Lord!  My faith is what should guide me, so that I could firmly and positively respond to His Word with my whole heart, mind and soul.

Directions

Always open your heart to God’s call and plan. Give God priority in your daily life.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, perfect my faith so that I may be able to see you in all that I do, so that amidst the busyness of life I may always experience You and be able to do your will. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Reflection 2 – The challenged of building a community of faith

Building the Temple was not as easy as today’s first reading (Ezra 6:7-8) might imply. The elite of the people had originally been sent into exile. Throughout those years, the locals who had remained behind developed their own folk religion, their own ranking of priests and their own cadre of corrupt officials. It was no easy task, therefore, to rebuild the Temple. Finally, after a great deal of grief from the locals as well as the enemies of the returnees, it was built. These tensions indicated not only how difficult it was to build the Temple but how hard it was to rebuild the community. There are similar tensions in most parishes between newcomers and the founding families. Building the community is more critical than constructing a building, because the community shares and carries the tradition. The enduring achievement of Ezra and Nehemiah was their creation of a cohesive community (more or less), around Jerusalem after the exile. We all belong to several communities: political, social, professional and recreational. The most vital community to which we belong is our family, which ought to be mainly a community of faith.

In the gospel (Lk 8:19-21) the Lord speaks about the ties that link His disciples to Him and to each other. In the Church, we are bonded to people around the world, to fellow Christians of the past and of the future. We belong to Jesus through call and discipleship. This was the same with Mary and Jesus’ own extended family. The ties of faith, though, are more critical even than those of blood. We honor Mary less for her genetic connection to Jesus than for her faith and love. Faith binds a diverse group of people together. We are composed of the powerful and the powerless. We are a community that is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. Mass in parish church rescues us from romantic fantasies about the universal church and reminds us that we are a Church of very human beings who are answering the Lord’s call to each of us. That is why Jesus challenged his followers and even his own earthly relatives to recognize that God is the source of all relationships. God wants all our relationships to be rooted in his love.

Within the diverse collection of people we call the Church, Jesus is mysteriously present as Lord. (Source: Rev. Joseph Krempa. Daily Homilies Ordinary Time, Vol. 1. New York: Alba House, 1985, pp. 170-171).

Reflection 3 – St. Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968 A.D.)

In one of the largest such ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina on June 16, 2002. It was the 45th canonization ceremony in Pope John Paul’s pontificate. More than 300,000 people braved blistering heat as they filled St. Peter’s Square and nearby streets. They heard the Holy Father praise the new saint for his prayer and charity. “This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio’s teaching,” said the pope. He also stressed Padre Pio’s witness to the power of suffering. If accepted with love, the Holy Father stressed, such suffering can lead to “a privileged path of sanctity.”

Many people have turned to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf; among them was the future Pope John Paul II. In 1962, when he was still an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she had been cured of her life-threatening disease.

Born Francesco Forgione, Padre Pio grew up in a family of farmers in southern Italy. Twice (1898-1903 and 1910-17) his father worked in Jamaica, New York, to provide the family income.

At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic.

On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side.

Life became more complicated after that. Medical doctors, Church authorities and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924 and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned; Padre Pio was not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to hear confessions. He did not complain of these decisions, which were soon reversed. However, he wrote no letters after 1924. His only other writing, a pamphlet on the agony of Jesus, was done before 1924.

Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned.

Padre Pio saw Jesus in all the sick and suffering. At his urging, a fine hospital was built on nearby Mount Gargano. The idea arose in 1940; a committee began to collect money. Ground was broken in 1946. Building the hospital was a technical wonder because of the difficulty of getting water there and of hauling up the building supplies. This “House for the Alleviation of Suffering” has 350 beds.

A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Those who assisted at his Masses came away edified; several curiosity seekers were deeply moved. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio sometimes had his habit torn or cut by souvenir hunters.

One of Padre Pio’s sufferings was that unscrupulous people several times circulated prophecies that they claimed originated from him. He never made prophecies about world events and never gave an opinion on matters that he felt belonged to Church authorities to decide. He died on September 23, 1968, and was beatified in 1999.

Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1147

Comment:
At Padre Pio’s canonization Mass in 2002, Pope John Paul II referred to that day’s Gospel (Matthew 11:25-30) and said: “The Gospel image of ‘yoke’ evokes the many trials that the humble Capuchin of San Giovanni Rotondo endured. Today we contemplate in him how sweet is the ‘yoke’ of Christ and indeed how light the burdens are whenever someone carries these with faithful love. The life and mission of Padre Pio testify that difficulties and sorrows, if accepted with love, transform themselves into a privileged journey of holiness, which opens the person toward a greater good, known only to the Lord.”

Quote:

“The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain” (saying of Padre Pio).

Related St. Anthony Messenger article(s) 

A Visit to Padre Pio’s Tomb, by Jack Wintz, OFM

Padre Pio: He ‘Astonished the World,’ by Judy Ball

Related product(s) 

Padre Pio: Man of Hope, by Renzo Allegri (book)

Through the Year With Padre Pio: Daily Readings, edited by Patricia Reece (book)

Padre Pio’s Spiritual Direction for Every Day, edited by Gianluigi Pasquale and translated by Marsha Daigle-Williamson, Ph.D. (book).

Meet Padre Pio: Beloved Mystic, Miracle Worker and Spiritual Guide, by Patricia Treece (book)

God’s Doorkeepers: Padre Pio, Solanus Casey and Andre Bessette, by Joel Schorn (book)

Quiet Moments With Padre Pio: 120 Readings, compiled by Patricia Treece (book)

Pope Francis to Albanian Christians: I came to give you thanks for your witness

Pope Francis to Albanian Christians: I came to give you thanks for your witness

Published on Sept 21, 2014

He recalled the witnesss of Albanian martyrs under the Communist regime. Thousands of pilgrims waited for Pope Francis’ arrival to Mother Teresa Square in Tirana, where he eventually celebrated Mass in Latin and Albanian.

During his homily, the Pope recalled the religious persecution undertaken by the Communist regime in Albania. It lasted four decades and almost swept away the Church’s presence in the country.
POPE FRANCIS
“We can say that Albania was a land of martyrs: many bishops, priests, men and women religious, laity and representatives of other religions paid for their fidelity with their lives. There were a lot of demonstrations of great courage and constancy in the profession of the faith. How many Christians did not give in when threatened, but persevered without wavering on the path they had undertaken!”
Pope Francis thanked the witness given by the Albanian people during those years. Specifically, he thanked Albanian Catholics for their steadfast loyalty to their faith.
POPE FRANCIS
“I came here today to give you thanks for your witness, to give you courage and to enlarge your hope and the hope of those around you. I came to involve the new generations, to encourage them to read the Word of God opening their hearts to Christ, to God, to the Gospel, to encountering God.”
Using the image of the eagle that appears in the Albanian national flag, the Pope invited the Albanian people to “fly high,” and to continue being an example of peaceful coexistence for Europe.
As the Mass ended, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with the pilgrims. Addressing Albanian youth, he asked them to follow the path of their martyrs and to build a better world.
POPE FRANCIS
“With the power of the Gospel and the example of the martyrs, you know how to say “No” to the idolatry of money, “No” to the false freedom of individualism, “No” to addiction and to violence.”
The Pope asked all of them to embrace the culture of encounter and solidarity. He then thanked pilgrims who traveled to Albania from neighboring countries.

Pope Francis at center for abandoned children: Doing good pays infinitely better than money

Pope Francis at center for abandoned children: Doing good pays infinitely better than money

Published on Sept 21, 2014

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The final stop of the papal trip to Albania was the “Betania” center, an institution that cares for orphans and abandoned children.

At a church dedicated to St. Anthony, the Pope listened to the witness of the workers of the center.

“Thank you for this visit that overwhelms anything we could have hoped for our association. We pray for you so that your blessing may stay with us all our life. Stay close to us. We love you so, so much. Excuse my getting emotional.”

During his address, Pope Francis highlighted the labor this center carries out for suffering children. He explained that it is thanks to places like this that faith really becomes charity.

POPE FRANCIS

“This faith that works in charity can move the mountains of indifference, of disbelief and insensitivity, and it opens the heart and hands to do good things and spread them. Thanks to humble and simple gestures of service the  Gospel that Jesus is risen and lives among us comes to us”.

Pope Francis went on to say that Christians can reject vengeance and be closer to God through goodness. He also explained that doing  good surpasses any amount of material wealth.

POPE FRANCIS

“The good is pays off infinitely better that money, that usually gets us down because we were created to receive and communicate the love of God, and to measure things with money and power.”

Concluding his address, the Pope said that love gives Christians the strength to sacrifice for the other with joy.

Before departing for the airport, Pope Francis gave the center a statue of St. Anthony, patron saint of the institution.

And as he was saying  farewell, the children of the institution sang a song to thank him for his visit.

Pope Francis Meets With Children of the ‘Betania’ Center in Albania
Says that “the secret to a good life is found in loving and giving oneself for love’s sake”

TIRANA, September 21, 2014 (Zenit.org) – After praying Vespers at the Cathedral of Tirana, Pope Francis made his way to the ‘Betania’ Center, located in Bubq Fushe-Kruje, roughly 18 miles from Tirana.

The Holy Father met with children, personnel and volunteers of the center at a nearby church dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. Representatives from several other charitable organizations were also present.

The Pope was welcomed by the director of the Betania center, and young person who was raised at the center. Shortly after, the Holy Father said the following:

Dear Friends,

I thank you from my heart for your joyful welcome! Above all, I wish to thank those of you who, each day, offer to so many children and youngsters in need of care, tenderness, a serene environment and friendliness. May you be also true educators, giving good example in the way you live and the way you offer support.

In places such as this we are all confirmed in the faith; each one is helped in his or her belief, because we see the faith visibly expressed in practical acts of charity. We see how faith brings light and hope in situations of grave hardship; we observe how faith is rekindled in hearts touched by the Spirit of Jesus who said, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” (Mk 9:37).  This faith, working through charity, dislodges the mountains of indifference, of disbelief and of apathy, and opens hands and hearts to work for what is good and share this experience. Through humble gestures and simple acts of service to the least among us, the Good News that Jesus is risen and lives among us is proclaimed.

This Centre, furthermore, shows that it is possible to live together peacefully and fraternally as people of different ethnicities and followers of various religious confessions. Here differences do not prevent harmony, joy and peace, but rather become occasions for a greater mutual awareness and understanding. The variety of religious experiences reveals a true and reverential love of neighbour; each religious community expresses itself through love and not violence, and is never ashamed of showing goodness! The persons who nourish goodness in their heart, find that such goodness leads to a peaceful conscience and to profound joy even in the midst of difficulties and misunderstandings. Even when affronted, goodness is never weak but  rather, shows its strength by refusing to take revenge.

Goodness is its own reward and draws us closer to God, who is the Supreme Good. It helps us to think like him, to see our lives in the light of his plan of love for each one of us, and enables us to delight in life’s daily joys, helping us in difficulties and in trials. Goodness offers infinitely more than money, which only deludes, because we have been created to receive the love of God and to offer it, not measuring everything in terms of money or power.

Dear friends, in her greeting, your Director recalled the steps taken by your Association and the works that were inspired by the founder, Mrs Antonietta Vitale, whom I cordially greet and thank for her welcome. Your Director also spoke of help given by benefactors and described the progress of various projects. She noted too, how many children have been lovingly welcomed and cared for.    Mirjan spoke, on the other hand, of a personal experience, of wonder and gratitude for an encounter which was life-changing for him, and which opened new horizons, offering opportunities to make new friends, and particularly one Friend who is greater than all the others, namely, Jesus.  Mirjan said something very poignant in regard to those volunteers who offer their help; he said, “For fifteen years now they have sacrificed themselves joyfully out of love for Jesus and for us”.  This phrase reveals how making a gift of oneself for the love of Jesus gives birth to joy and hope, and it also shows how serving one’s brothers and sisters is transformed into an experience of sharing God’s kingdom.  The words of Mirjan-Paolo might seem paradoxical to many in our world who are slow to grasp their meaning and who frantically seek the key to existence in earthly riches, possessions and amusements.  What these people discover, instead, is estrangement and bewilderment.

The secret to a good life is found in loving and giving oneself for love’s sake.  From here comes the strength to “sacrifice oneself joyfully”, and thus the most demanding work is transformed into a source of a greater joy.  In this way, there is no longer any fear of making important choices in life, but they are seen for what they are, namely, as the way to personal fulfilment in freedom.

May the Lord Jesus and his Mother, the Virgin Mary, bless your Association, this Bethany Centre and the other centres which love has initiated and providence has built. May God bless all the volunteers, benefactors and the children and adolescents who have been welcomed here. May your patron, Saint Anthony, accompany you along the way. I encourage you to continue faithfully serving the Lord Jesus in the poor and abandoned, and to pray to him so that the hearts and minds of all may be opened to goodness, to charity shown in works, which is the source of real and authentic joy. I ask you also kindly to pray for me, and from my heart, I bless each one of you.

Pope Francis to Albanian authorities: Let no one use God as a shield when carrying out violent acts

Pope Francis to Albanian authorities: Let no one use God as a shield when carrying out violent acts

Published on Sept 21, 2014

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Pope Francis arrived to  “Mother Teresa” international airport, in Tirana, shortly before 9 AM. Several government officials of Albania were waiting for him there, and he was officially welcomed at the presidential palace shortly after his arrival.

In his first address in the Muslim majority country, the Pope highlighted the importance of peaceful coexistence among religions. He cited Albania as an example, and explained that religion should always promote dialogue, not violence.

POPE FRANCIS

“Let no one consider using God as a shield  while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression! May no one use religion as a pretext for actions against human dignity and against the fundamental rights of every man and woman, above all, the right to life and the right of everyone to religious freedom!”

The Pope went on to explain that education is one of the best ways of promoting inter-religious dialogue and peace.

POPE FRANCIS

“The peaceful coexistence of different religious communities is, in fact, a priceless benefit to peace and to harmonious human advancement.”

The Pope also referred to what he called “the new challenges” that the world faces today. Among them, protecting the rights of families.

POPE FRANCIS

“Alongside the globalization of the markets there must also be a corresponding globalization of solidarity; together with economic growth there must be a greater respect for creation; alongside the rights of individuals, there must be the guaranteed rights of those who are a bridge between the individual and the state, the family being the first and foremost of such institutions.”

Concluding his address, the Pope said that growth and development must be accessible to all, and not just to a selected few.

 

 

 

The Pope Francis listens to two survivors of Communist persecution in Albania

The Pope Francis listens to two survivors of Communist persecution in Albania

Published on Sept 21, 2014

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The memory of those Christians who gave their lives during the Communist persecution in Albania was very present during the meeting of Pope Francis with the Albanian priests and religious people.

“Our martyr died crying ‘Long live the Pope!’ and we also want to cry it out together.”

A 84-year-old Albanian priest told Pope Francis how he faced hard labor in a concentration camp for 27 years. A nun who had to live in clandestinity also gave her testimony, and couldn’t help getting emotional when she greeted Pope Francis.

The Pope himself set aside his written speech and improvised another one. He made a comment on the Gospel of the day, that talked about the consolation that God brings to his people.

For the Pope, the priest and nun that shared their experiences were living examples of martyrdom. He explained how they survived religious persecution.

POPE FRANCIS

“We can ask them: how did you survive so much suffering? And they will answer what we read on on this passage of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians: God is a merciful Father and a God of comfort. It was Him who comforted us.”

Pope Francis also highlighted that they could overcome such hard times thanks to the prayer of a lot of Christians. In a friendly way, he asked Christians not to look for comfort far from God.

POPE FRANCIS

“I don’t want to scold you today, eh? I don’t want to play the executioner part here. But pay attention, eh? If you look for comfort somewhere else, you’ll never be happy.”

The Pope admitted that he wasn’t aware of the ferocious the Communist persecution was until he had studied it carefully in the last two months. He also confessed that was surprised to see how much suffering the Albanian people had undertaken.

Before leaving St. Paul’s cathedral in Tirana, the Albanian bishops gave a cross that had pictures of martyrs, as well as an icon of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Patroness of Albania.

Pope Weeps Upon Hearing Witness of Religious Persecution in Albania
Elderly Priest and Nun Recall Sufferings During the Rule of the Communist Regime

By Staff Reporter

TIRANA, September 21, 2014 (Zenit.org) – After his visit to the Catholic University of Our Lady of Good Counsel, the Holy Father made his way to the Cathedral of Saint Paul, to celebrate vespers with the priests, religious, seminarians and members of various lay movements.

Archbishop Rrok K. Mirdita, gave a welcoming address and was followed by the testimonies of an elderly priest and religious sister, witnesses of the persecution suffered under the communist regime.

Fr. Ernesto, an 84 year old diocesan priest, recalled when the Communist party came to power and began detaining and murdering priests, some he said who died saying “Long live Christ the King”. He also said that his diocesan superiors were killed by firing squad.

He added that after 8 years of priesthood, he was discovered, arrested and imprisoned under inhumane conditions. “We hit because you preach Christ”, he recalled them saying. When he was at the point of death, they set him free.

He also recalled a moment when a false prisoner was placed with him in order to deceive him into speaking against communism, and thus assuring his execution. He was imprisoned for 18 years and in his cell he wrote: ‘Jesus is my life’. The elderly priest also served in forced labor during his imprisonment. With the fall of communism and the return of religious freedom, he now serves as pastor of a local parish.

After his witness, Fr. Ernesto approached the Holy Father and knelt, kissing his ring. The Pope, visibly moved by his testimony, wept and held the priest in a long embrace.

Sr. Maria Caleta, an Albanian nun, recalled how her pastor was imprisoned for 8 years. The priest, who was close to death, was released from prison. Upon his release, he immediately left to see his faithful but discovered that his parish no longer existed. Today, she said, the process of canonization of this priest has been opened.

Sr. Caleta belonged to Stigmatine Religious Congregation for 7 years, before the communist regime shut down their convent, forcing the nuns to flee. The religious sister recalled how she and several other local religious continued to maintain their faith despite the odds.

“Sometimes I wasn’t sure if they were spying on me, but I continued to defend the faith,” she said. Shortly after, the Communist began to impose forced labor in the country.

The religious sister recounted how a woman from a communist family asked her about seeking baptism for her child. Sr. Caleta said she feared that it was a trap but nonetheless, brought some water and baptized the child. During that period, she remembered her desire to go to Mass, to receive the Sacraments.

The Vortex: Blasting Away & Church Militant.TV News 9/22/2014

The Vortex: Blasting Away & Church Militant.TV News 9/22/2014

Published on Sept 22, 2014

Straight-talkin’, straight-shootin’ priest.

Watch ‘Massa Damnata’ – http://www.churchmilitant.tv/dispatch…

ChurchMilitant.TV News 09-22

Published on Sep 22, 2014

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Monday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time & St. Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions September 22,2014

Monday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time & St. Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions September 22,2014

AMDG+

Opening Prayer

“Lord Jesus, you guide me by the light of your saving truth. Fill my heart and mind with your light and truth and free me from the blindness of sin and deception that I may see your ways clearly and understand your will for my life. May I radiate your light and truth to others in word and deed.”  In your mighty Name, I pray. Amen.

Reading 1
Prv 3:27-34

Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim
when it is in your power to do it for him.
Say not to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
tomorrow I will give,” when you can give at once.

Plot no evil against your neighbor,
against one who lives at peace with you.
Quarrel not with a man without cause,
with one who has done you no harm.

Envy not the lawless man
and choose none of his ways:
To the LORD the perverse one is an abomination,
but with the upright is his friendship.

The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked,
but the dwelling of the just he blesses;
When dealing with the arrogant, he is stern,
but to the humble he shows kindness.
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm
Ps 15:2-3a, 3bc-4ab, 5
R. (1) The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord.

He who walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.
R. The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord.

Who harms not his fellow man,
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
By whom the reprobate is despised,
while he honors those who fear the LORD.
R. The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord.

Who lends not his money at usury
and accepts no bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
shall never be disturbed.
R. The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord.

Gospel
Lk 8:16-18

Jesus said to the crowd:
“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection 1 – Lamps burning all night

During my younger years, homes in rural areas in the Philippines, which were not covered by the government’s electrification program were made bright at night through kerosene-lit lamps. The homes then were not too far from those during the time of our Lord Jesus. In every dark home during our Lord’s time one could see the dim olive-oil fueled lamp and not much more. It was very common to see lamps burning all night even among the poorest of homes.

As we concentrate within any dark home, our vision gradually adjusts and we see more of what is inside. “For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible,
and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.”
 Our lives may be likened to every dark home. We all need the light of Christ, first and foremost. Once we are able to fix our focus on Jesus, we can see the hidden things of our life. We are able to gradually realize our shortcomings, our strongholds, our weaknesses and areas where we can improve to be a better person.

Jesus is the key to our understanding of all things and possession of all spiritual insights and perspectives. Once we have Him in our hearts and abide in Him, our lives can go beyond the impossible and we are able to do greater things for God. We become His open and willing vehicle that abounds in spiritual generosity as, “To anyone who has, more will be given,” However once we lose our focus on our Lord Jesus, once we set aside Jesus for the world, we in time lose even the little spiritual insight we have, “and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.”

Today we proclaim that Jesus is in our hearts and His Light is upon our paths. We have been redeemed from darkness and are now living in His Light. With His grace and power, we are able to imitate Him and live His life. Because we have been faithful to our covenant with Him, we have likewise been His Light to others.  We are able to give what is due our neighbor in love and respect as a free willing gift from our Lord without strings attached. We are able ease the burden of a neighbor as we “Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim when it is in our power to do it for him.”

God wants us to be His living witnesses to the world that we are like His Son, our Lord Jesus! He desires that we become CHRIST to all so that more souls will know Him and draw near to Him.

Let us continue to be the Light of the world and Salt upon the earth!

Reflection 2 – There is nothing hidden that will not become visible

Today’s gospel reading reminds us that we should be extremely careful how we live our lives because “there is nothing hidden that will not become visible and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.”

Every man has his own closet of skeletons. A man may appear to be good and acceptable yet his past or present dealings when brought to light could be detrimental to his image. None of us can escape this scrutiny.

Jesus had His own problems with the people around Him. They were undoubtedly the people who told the Pharisees whenever He consorted with sinners or violated the letter of the Sabbath laws. Jesus knew he was under constant public scrutiny – that whatever he did would not remain secret.

Today, we are all reminded that we all make mistakes and we normally would prefer to keep silent about them. We know that God will eventually judge us for them. Some repent of their sins while others refuse to even acknowledge them.

Refusing to face our mistakes and make amends for them just worsens the original error. Cover-ups almost guarantee that what we have tried to hide will become visible. Thus it is better to humble ourselves, repent and try to atone to God and others for our misdeeds. We will recover better when our secrets come to light.

The truth that we have to openly choose Christ above all is a case in point.  We were recently reminded that we cannot serve God and mammon. Luke 16:13 We cannot straddle between good and bad… between giving and taking… dying and living! We cannot be indifferent to God’s will. It is either we are with God or against Him. There are two no faced characters in God’s kingdom. We have to choose and openly proclaim Him in our lives. Thus the notion to be always “politically aligned” so one will be acceptable whichever way the wind blows is something we should ask God for enlightenment.

Let us be reminded what Jesus said, “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.” To be “politically aligned” starts with small things and eventually graduates into bigger things, one may never have thought of doing.

Oftentimes, to be politically aligned and correct, one has to speak half truths… one has to taint the truth for one’s benefit to the disadvantage of the less favored position. To be “politically aligned” may mean to stab a brother and neighbor when His back is turned… one day we will stab not only our neighbor but God Himself! To be “politically aligned” is not only hypocritical but a sign of one’s lack of character… who cannot say a firm Yes or NO but would wiggle one’s way towards what is pleasing to the eyes of many at the expense of truth and God’s will.

A reminder to all: We may be able to keep our skeletons in our closet. Our friends may never find out that we have exchanged them for something that works out for our power and glory. But with God there are no secrets. He knows when we have exchanged Him for lustful pleasure and the power, glory and influence that our world affords us. We have an all knowing God… “there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light”!

God’s grace sustained Jesus while being tempted three times to be politically aligned and correct” with the world. He survived it. We, too, will survive the onslaught of the devil if God is in us…if He is allowed to freely work in us. He will give us the strength to pursue for what is right in His eyes. With His grace, we too will survive the enemy’s attack!

“We are glad indeed.  The LORD has done great things for them. The LORD has done great things for us!”

Directions

God knows everything in and about us. We need to acknowledge our sins and repent for them.

Prayer

Lord have mercy on me a sinner. In Jesus Name, I pray. Amen.

Reflection 3 – Twinkle, Tinkle, Tattle

Be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. —1 Peter 5:8

A man was repeatedly robbed by burglars who entered his house through a window while he was asleep. He finally solved his problem by using three things. He called them a twinkler, a tinkler, and a tattler. The twinkler was a candle that he kept burning in the window all night. The tinkler was a bell attached to the window. And the tattler was a small, noisy dog. Because of these, the burglars were kept away.

Every Christian lives in a house that Satan seeks to burglarize. We too need a twinkler, a tinkler, and a tattler. The twinkler is the candle of God’s Word. Its truths provide light that exposes Satan’s lies. Daily attention to the Word keeps the lamp bright. The tinkler is the bell of our testimony. Keep it ringing as you tell others of the Savior, and Satan will be frustrated. The tattler is the life of prayer. When the enemy comes, send up the warning that you are telling Jesus about it all. Yes, twinkle your light, tinkle your testimony, and bark the enemy away by prayer.

A godly woman, when asked the secret of her victory, replied, “Whenever the devil raps at my door, I just say, ‘Jesus, You go to the door and take care of him.'”

Twinkle, tinkle, and tattle! —M. R. De Haan, M.D. (founder of RBC Ministries)  — M.R. De Haan

The only way to overcome
Temptations that we face
Is to be focused on the Lord,
Who strengthens by His grace. —Sper

If you would master temptation, let Christ master you (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).

Reflection 4 – Commitment in acts as well as in words

Today’s Gospel consists of three proverbs – parables, urging those who profess to be followers of Christ to demonstrate their commitment in acts as well as in words.

Social-science commentators Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh note that a peasant’s house in first-century Palestine was a single room. In this setting, a portable lamp could be used to give light to the whole house if it were appropriately positioned. A Christian who fails to give evidence of his commitment is as absurd as a lighted candle under a clay pot.

Further, one cannot be a secret Christian. If one has truly embraced the Gospel, he will not be able to keep it hidden. His dedication to the way of Christ will become evident as he negotiates the paths of daily life. His compassion, forgiveness, spirituality and love will come to light. And the luke-warm response of a half-hearted Christian will likewise become obvious as life’s opportunities for witness unfold.

Thirdly, anyone who tries to be semi-Christian will love what little faith and righteousness he thinks he has. Rabbinical scholar John Lightfoot’s commentary on verse 18 included this explanation centuries ago: God’s measure is not like the measure of flesh and blood. The measure of flesh and blood is this: An empty vessel is receptive, but a full one can take in no more. But God’s measure is this: The full vessel is receptive of more but the empty vessel receives nothing.”

Religious brother and spiritual writer Carlo Caretto recalls the occasion when he passed through a small African village and met an old ex-slave trembling with cold. For a passing moment, Caretto thought of giving him one of his blankets but put the idea out of his mind. The memory of that episode haunted Caretto one night when he dreamed that the great boulder he was sleeping near pinned him to the ground. He then saw the shivering old man and decided to give him one of his blankets, but the boulder made the slightest move impossible. “At that moment,” Caretto said, “I understood what purgatory was, and the suffering of the soul was to be pinned down and then realize that one is unable to do what he should have done before.”

Today’s Liturgy of the Word encourages us to turn our profession of faith into a plan of action. Both the proverbs of the Old Testament (Prob 3:27-34)) and the parables of Jesus remind us that God is more concerned about how we treat our neighbor than how we treat him. “It is mercy, I desire,” Yahweh said, “not sacrifice.” Our loyalty to God is measured in terms of our service to friends and strangers. “Anyone who says he loves God and hates his neighbor is a liar.”

Out in the desert, Carlo Caretto faced the awful reality that his giving up everything and going into the desert in order to find God was useless if he failed to love his neighbor. He wrote in his book Letters from the Desert, “What’s the use of saying the Divine Office well, of sharing the Eucharist, if one is not impelled by love?”

In his dream he heard the great stone that pinned him to the ground say, “You will be judged according to your ability to love.” In the Bible, he heard God say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Source: Norman Langenbrunner, Weekday Homily Helps. Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, September 20, 2010).

Reflection 5 – St. Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions (1600?-1637 A.D.)

Lawrence (Lorenzo) was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter.

His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that “he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him.”

At that time three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan.

They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, “I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there.” In Japan they were soon found out, arrested and taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution.

They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears.

The superior, Antonio, died after some days. Both the Japanese priest and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions.

In Lorenzo’s moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, “I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life.” The interpreter was noncommittal, but Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators.

The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semicircular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. The three Dominican priests, still alive, were beheaded.

In 1987, Blessed John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others, Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines, Formosa and Japan. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr.

Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1146

Comment:

We ordinary Christians of today—how would we stand up in the circumstances these martyrs faced? We sympathize with the two who temporarily denied the faith. We understand Lorenzo’s terrible moment of temptation. But we see also the courage—unexplainable in human terms—which surged from their store of faith. Martyrdom, like ordinary life, is a miracle of grace.

Quote:

When government officials asked, “If we grant you life, will you renounce your faith?,” Lorenzo responded: “That I will never do, because I am a Christian, and I shall die for God, and for him I will give many thousands of lives if I had them. And so, do with me as you please.”

Pope Francis to Albanian religious leaders: “Killing in God’s name is a grave sacrilege”

Pope Francis to Albanian religious leaders: “Killing in God’s name is a grave sacrilege”

Published on Sept 21, 2014

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Pope Francis met with the six spiritual leaders of the main religious confessions of Albania: Muslims,  Bektashis, Catholics, Orthodox, Evangelicals and Jews.

The Pope explained that this meeting proved that peaceful religious coexistence is possible. He also recalled the consequences of excluding God from society.

POPE FRANCIS

“When, in the name of an ideology, there is an attempt to remove God from society, it ends up adoring idols, and very soon men and women lose their way, their dignity is trampled and their rights violated.”

For the Pope, true religious freedom must promote respect and dialogue, and has nothing to do with sectarianism.

POPE FRANCIS

“We cannot deny that intolerance towards those with different religious convictions is a particularly insidious enemy, one which today is being witnessed in various areas around the world.”

Pope Francis asked all believers to stand up against any distortion of religion, especially using faith as a pretext for violence.

POPE FRANCIS

“No one must use the name of God to commit violence. To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman.”

There are two ways of promoting religious freedom, according to Pope Francis:acknowledging that all human beings are brothers and standing for the common good.

Although all the religious authorities paid close attention to the Pope’s words, he joked about their seating arrangement.

POPE FRANCIS

“With some sense of humor, one could say that this looks like two soccer teams: the Catholics against the rest.”

After drawing some laughs from those present, Pope resumed his speech encouraging them to embrace dialogue without rejecting their religious identity.

‘To Kill in the Name of God is a Great Sacrilege! To Discriminate in the Name of God is Inhuman’
In Tirana, Pope Francis stresses that religious freedom is “a safeguard against all forms of totalitarianism and contributes decisively to human fraternity”

By Antonio Gaspari

ROME, September 21, 2014 (Zenit.org) http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/to-kill-in-the-name-of-god-is-a-great-sacrilege-to-discriminate-in-the-name-of-god-is-inhuman

“Authentic religion is a source of peace and not of violence! No one must use the name of God to commit violence!   To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege. To discriminate in the name of God is inhuman”.

Pope Francis said these words today at the Catholic University of “Our Lady of Good Council” of Tirana during a meeting with representatives from various religious communities: Muslim, Bektashi, Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical and Jewish.

The university was establish in 2004 and “Our Lady of Good Counsel” is the patron of Albania. Students from different faiths attend the athenaeum and it is run by a foundation headed by the religious congregation of the ‘Children of the Immaculate Conception. Roughly 500 Italian professors teach at the university’s schools of Economy, Pharmaceutical Studies and Medicine.

After recalling that Albania has been a witness of the violence and tragedies caused by the ” forced exclusion of God from personal and communal life”, the Pope added that “when, in the name of an ideology, there is an attempt to remove God from society, it ends up adoring idols, and very soon men and women lose their way, their dignity is trampled and their rights violated”.

The deprival of freedom of conscience and religious freedom, the Pontiff added, wounds and conditions “a humanity that is impoverished because it lacks hope and ideals to guide it.”

According to Pope Francis, the return of religious freedom in Albania has made it possible for every community to “to renew traditions which were never really extinguished, despite ferocious persecution”. He also said that it allowed for everyone to offer, according their own religious convictions, “a positive contribution; firstly, to the moral reconstruction of the country and then, subsequently, to the economic reconstruction.”

“Only faith,” Pope John Paul II wrote in a message to the Albanian people, “reminds us that, if we have one Creator, we are therefore all brothers and sisters. Religious freedom is a safeguard against all forms of totalitarianism and contributes decisively to human fraternity”.

To this, Pope Francis underlined that “intolerance towards those with different religious convictions is a particularly insidious enemy, one which today is being witnessed in various areas around the world.”

For this reason the Bishop of Rome asked to focus on two points to move towards religious freedom and thus see “every man and woman, even those of different religious traditions, not as rivals, less still enemies, but rather as brothers and sisters”  and the “work done in service of the common good”.

“Whenever adherence to a specific religious tradition gives birth to service that shows conviction, generosity and concern for the whole of society without making distinctions, then there too exists an authentic and mature living out of religious freedom,” he said.

The Pope explained that “this presents itself not only as a space in which to legitimately defend one’s autonomy, but also as a potential that enriches the human family as it advances.” He also stated that every religious tradition should give account to the other.

Departing from his prepared speech, the Pope said that “without identity, dialogue cannot exist. It would be a phantom dialogue.” He warned that one cannot explain their own identity if they pretend to have a different one.

“That which brings us together is the path of life. It is the good will to do good for the brothers and sisters, he said the religious leaders. And each one of us offers the witness of their own identity to the other, and dialogues with the other.”

The Pope drew some laughter when comparing having one side of Catholic bishops sitting in the room and the other side of all other religious leaders, which he looked like two soccer teams.

Pope Francis concluded his address by stressing the important role of men and women in shaping a society that guarantees religious freedom and social justice.

“Continue to be a sign for your country, and beyond, that good relations and fruitful cooperation are truly possible among men and women of different religions,” he said.

Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s video: Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time A September 21,2014

Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s video: Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time A September 21,2014

We have a problem in this Sunday’s parable of the workers hired late (Mt 20:1-16). It seems so unfair because we judge by our common experiences. What do we see in daily life? Good people are taken advantage of. Hard work is not appreciated. People who have learned how to take advantage of “the system” get ahead. Promotions are made on the basis of who you know, not what you do. This is what we see and hear, and so the parable seems unfair. We identify with the laborers who worked all day. Then, what is the meaning of this parable?  The landowner whose decision to pay all the workers the same was an act of mercy – not injustice – represent God whose grace and mercy are shed abundantly upon those of His choosing. The first group of workers resented receiving the same wage as the last group. Their attitude was similar to that of the Pharisees who despised Jesus for offering the kingdom to the poor, oppressed, and weak sinners whom He made equal to them. The message about “the last will be first, and the first last” means that no matter how long or how hard a believer works during his lifetime, the reward of eternal life be the same given to all – an eternity of bliss in heaven in the presence of God the Father and the Lord Jesus. Am I willing to accept this reward wholeheartedly after my service in the vineyard of the Lord? When I am confronted with this reality, do I enlarge myself with charity or succumb to envy in my complaining attitude, or competitive attitude?  Why do I serve the Lord? Is it because of fear, duty, prestige or reward? Motives are never entirely pure, and a variety of factors propel us. But we are not hirelings, serving for wages. We are children, delighting in our Father’s work and trusting in His generosity. Thus, the best cure for this sinful habit is Christian love. This love “suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; . . . love does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Then, as we depend on the Lord, we must put these attitudes into practice – don’t find a fault without a remedy. What are your remedies of your inner grumblings in the service of the Lord?

AMDG+

Opening Prayer

“Lord, may I serve you and my neighbor with a glad and generous heart, not looking for how much I can get but rather looking for how much I can give.” Lord give me the grace to serve You and my neighbor with great cheer and love and generously without counting the cost. In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen

Reading 1
Is 55:6-9 – My thoughts are not your thoughts.

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.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
R. (18a) The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
R. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

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.
R. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

Reading II
Phil 1:20c-24, 27a – For me to live is Christ.

Brothers and sisters:
Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.
For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.
If I go on living in the flesh,
that means fruitful labor for me.
And I do not know which I shall choose.
I am caught between the two.
I long to depart this life and be with Christ,
for that is far better.
Yet that I remain in the flesh
is more necessary for your benefit.

Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.

The word of the Lord.

Gospel
Mt 20:1-16a – Are you envious because I am generous.

Please click this link to watch the video on Fr. Robert Barron’s Homily on 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time A – Going Beyond a Mercenary Love for God

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
the landowner found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
He said to one of them in reply,
‘My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or 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.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection 1 – Are you envious because I am generous?

God’s message for us today is quite direct to the point and addresses itself to those of us who have remained idle in the sidelines and have allowed others to lead the way and do His work.

“Why do you stand here idle all day?”

The Second Vatican Council asked all of us to recognize and reaffirm that, through the “Word of God”, the Church is the People of God and as such the role of the Church is to be expressed as a sign of the Kingdom of God. To be such a sign is to recognize the call given to the People of God and to reaffirm the gift presented by the People of God as we are all called to, and gifted with, Holiness, Community, Ministry, and Maturity from God.

What is our calling as God’s people?

As the body of Christ we have all been called and gifted in numerous ways. Every gift and talent we have comes from God who has gifted and called us in various ways for a purpose. As we seek to understand and let our Lord develop our gifts and skills through His grace, we must ask ourselves “Why did God gift me in this way?” and” What is God’s plan with this gift?”

We may be lay workers but that doesn’t mean our only opportunities to invest in the Kingdom are on Sundays. The calling God gave us and for which we have been prepared is always an avenue to serve God. If we are open vessels who respond to the command, “‘You too go into my vineyard’ then God will use us, our gifts, skills and profession to build Christ’s Kingdom. He will enable us to participate in His work by both finding situations that will utilize our gifts and skills as well as to live out the Christian life everyday at home, in the workplace, in church and community.

Deciding today in favor of God, living our lives with Christ and working for Him will only bless us and make bear the right fruit to enter the Father’s heavenly kingdom.

Direction

“Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ”.

Prayer

Lord you are gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.
You are good to all and compassionate toward all my works. You are near to all who call upon You. In You, I always hope and pray. Amen.

Reflection 2 – Arriving Late

The last will be first, and the first last. —Matthew 20:16

Eddie, an outspoken atheist, spent his entire life of 50 years denying the existence of God. Then he contracted a debilitating disease, and his health slowly deteriorated. As he lay in a hospice house awaiting death, Eddie was visited almost every day by some Christian friends he had known in high school. They told him again of Christ’s love. But the closer Eddie came to dying, the more it appeared he was not interested in God.

One Sunday, a pastor stopped by to visit. To everyone’s surprise, Eddie prayed with him and asked Jesus for forgiveness and salvation. A few weeks later, he died.

Eddie denied Christ for 50 years and spent just 2 weeks loving and trusting Him. But because of his faith, he will experience forever God’s presence, glory, love, majesty, and perfection. Some may argue that this isn’t fair. But according to Jesus’ parable in Matthew 20, it’s not about fairness. It’s about God’s goodness and grace (vv.11-15).

Have you waited such a long time to trust Jesus for salvation that you think it might be too late? Consider the thief on the cross, who put his faith in Jesus just before he died (Luke 23:39-43). Trust Jesus now, and receive His gift of eternal life. It’s not too late!  — Dave Branon

If God is calling you today,
Then trust in Christ without delay;
Tomorrow it will be too late
If death occurs and seals your fate. —Sper

It is a dangerous presumption to say, “Tomorrow,” when God says, “Today!” (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).

Reflection 3 – Surprise!

The Gospel this Sunday is called the Parable of the Vineyard Workers. But more accurately, it can also be called the Parable of the Generous Landowner. His action greatly surprised everyone. How can he give those hired very late in the day the same salary as those who worked the whole day? There seems to be no fairness here. However, fairness is not the issue here because those hired early in the day were paid the right salary as agreed upon with the owner. Justice has been served. Instead, the issue here is generosity.

Whenever the issue of generosity comes up, it evokes both a positive and a negative response. The positive response is trust. In the parable, those hired early in the day were confident in the security provided by the formal contract with the owner. It was a business deal. But for those hired much later in the day, there was no mention of a contract: “He said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too'” (Mt 20:6-7). The workers relied on the word of the owner, and trusted that he will give them whatever is right. And they were not mistaken.

God’s generosity is beyond the comprehension of everybody: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son”(Jn 3:16). Knowing this should be enough reason and assurance for us to trust God unconditionally. This is what St. Paul told the Romans: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom 8:32). Rightly, then, did the Spirit-filled Elizabeth praise the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Visitation: “Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45).

On the other hand, the negative response to generosity is envy: “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Mt 20:15). God’s generosity is quite acceptable and even desirable when we are the recipients. The problem comes when it is other people who are the recipients, especially those whom we think are less worthy than us.

This is precisely what happened to the Jews at the time of Jesus. They were convinced that they were better than anybody else since they belonged to the Chosen People of God. They expected to be treated with a “favored nation” status. They are the ones referred by Jesus in the parable as the workers who were hired first. They resented seeing people whom they considered less worthy, receiving favors from God. They hated the sight of Jesus dining with tax collectors and prostitutes, curing the lepers and talking to pagans. Jesus rebuked them for this sort of attitude: “Thus the first will be last and the last will be first.”

We belong to the Church founded by Christ Himself. We are now the New People of God. But the Gospel today exhorts us to avoid the mistake of the Jews. By all means, let us resist and overcome envy. Being the New People of God does not mean we are better than the others, and that we can expect and demand heavenly favors more than the others. Let us always remember that if God is generous with us, He can also be generous to others. The good thief crucified next to Jesus is the classic example of this. Jesus told him, “This day you will be with me in paradise.” Indeed, as God tells us in the first reading, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” (Is 55:8).

Definitely, envy is rooted in pride. It comes in when we compare ourselves with others. When we do so, two things can always happen. It is either we see people who are less talented or blessed than us. Then we become proud and arrogant. Or we see people who are better than us, and we become envious and bitter.

The only antidote to envy is humility. It is the virtue that helps us realize who we really are in the presence of God: sinners and the “rejects”. But God continues to love and bless us despite this. Such is the formula of holiness by the saints. Instead of comparing themselves with other people, the saints always compare themselves with God. And when they do, they have only two things to say to God: “I’m sorry, Lord!” and “Thank you, Lord!”

As we come to Mass, we always come in the presence of God. And so, it is but proper to start the Mass with the Penitential Rite, an act of humility: “I confess to Almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned…Lord, have mercy!” And then we continue with the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The term “Eucharist” means, “to give thanks”. The Mass, then, is an invitation for us to humble gratitude and unfailing trust and confidence in God’s generous providence and merciful love for us sinners.

Let me close with these words of Bishop Fulton Sheen: “How God will judge my life I know not, but I trust he will see me with mercy and compassion. I am only certain there will be three surprises in Heaven. First of all, I will see some people whom I never expected to see. Second, there will be a number whom I expect who will not be there. And – even relying on God’s mercy – the biggest surprise of all may be that I will be there.” (Sourc: Fr. Mike Lagrimas, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs, Camarin Road, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1423)

Reflection  4 – Go into my vineyard

All of us hear the call to work in the Lord’s vineyard. It is a call that was heard from the beginning of time, when God created man and woman to tend the garden and till the ground (Genesis 2:5). This corresponds with man’s vocation to subdue and have dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28). In the garden, man is in a state of original happiness. Through his work, man shares in God’s creative work. When man follows God’s command to share in his divine work, man exercises his freedom and lives in the fullness of truth; when he sins against God, man abuses his freedom and gives in to the lies of the devil.

Due to sin, work becomes toil. The ground, which was blessed by God as good, is now cursed. The cool breeze of the garden is replaced by the heat which causes man to sweat. To Adam, God says: “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plant of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19).

With Christ, things have changed. Like Adam and Eve, we hear again the call to work. Jesus calls us to work in the vineyard, to become fishers of men, to shepherd the flock, to seek out the lost sheep, to invest our talents, to tend our lamps, to preach the Gospel, to heal the sick and call sinners to conversion, to cast out demons, to remove the log from our eye, to serve, to wash the feet of our brothers and sisters, to feed our household, to watch and to pray.

In all this we trust in God. We are not anxious about what we will eat, drink or wear. God will take care of us as we strive to fulfill his will. We shouldn’t worry about how much we will receive for our labor or if we will receive more or less than the rest. The important thing is to work so as to enter into God’s rest. If we respond to God’s call to till the ground and to Jesus’ call to work in the vineyard, then we will enjoy the Sabbath rest. The six days of work here on earth lead to heavenly rest which has no end.

Saint Paul, we learn today, is caught between two desires. On the one hand, he wants to be with Christ. On the other, he wants to remain with his brothers and sisters to serve them and preach the Gospel to them. He is torn between the desire to work in the Lord’s vineyard and the desire to receive his heavenly reward.

Once again, this is something we leave in God’s hands. We do not choose the day nor the hour of our departure from this earth. God is in charge. He is a merciful God, slow to anger, who is generous in forgiving. He knows the right time. We need to trust in him and thank him for his generosity. Instead of being envious of our brothers and sisters, we need to rejoice that they too will receive the inheritance of eternal life and enter into God’s rest.

Read the source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/sunday-homily-go-into-my-vineyard

Reflection 5 – The picture of rewards: Motivation for discipleship

Like so many of the Lord’s stories, this parable plunges us into daily life in ancient Palestine. It is worth observing that the Lord was a student of life. His stories have the ring of authenticity because they happen where people live. We should notice that this story is not designed to teach us about labor-management relations or about salvation, or even about rewards. The Lord wants us to think about the attitude of heart with which a disciple should serve Him.

Day laborers were a common fact of life in the Lord’s time. In this agricultural society, there were no labor unions and few contract employees. Men looking for work would gather at a convenient spot in the town’s marketplace, and those requiring help would recruit the men they needed. A rate of pay would be arranged, the work would be done, and workers would be paid at day’s end, in accordance with Old Testament law (Lev. 19:13; Deut. 24:14-15).

The story itself is straightforward. At six in the morning, a vineyard owner went into the marketplace to hire workers. They agreed to fair wage and set off to do the work. There is no suggestion that they possessed any particular skills or abilities that made them more desirable employees than the others. They were available, agreed to terms, and set about their task.

But, for some reason, the landowner felt the need for more workers. Perhaps bad weather threatened the crop or a contract required immediate harvesting. More likely, he saw the unemployed and desired to help them. For whatever reason, he returned at 9:00 a.m. and saw men who were willing to work but unemployed. He made them a simple offer: “Go and work… and I will pay you whatever is right.” They agreed and went with no contractual agreement, but simply with an opportunity to trust the landowner’s promise and character. Three more times the process was repeated – at noon, at 3:00 p.m. and at 5:00 p.m.

When the day was done, the owner ordered his foreman to pay the workers, beginning with those who had worked for only one hour and continuing to those who had worked for a full day. When the one-hour workers were paid, they were astonished to discover that they had received a full day’s wage, a denarius. Obviously, they hadn’t earned that much. But a family could not live on less than a denarius a day, so, in generosity, the owner had paid them not what they deserved but what they needed. Apparently in his view, people mattered more than profits.

News of their good fortune quickly spread down through the line, and the twelve-hour workers excitedly anticipated receiving a bonanza. “If they got one denarius, we should get twelve!” By the time they reached the front, they had already spent their bonuses in their minds. Imagine their chagrin to discover that their pay envelopes also contained one denarius! This was exactly what they had contracted for (Mt 20:2), but it hardly seemed fair. “They only worked one hour and we’ve put in twelve full hours in the burning heat of the day. How can you call that fair?

The owner’s answer was straightforward: in effect, “It’s not meant to be fair. You received exactly what you worked for. So your pay is absolutely fair. But I’m paying them generously, not fairly.”

In the landowner’s voice we hear our Lord’s gentle rebuke of Peter. It is a warning against three dangers in the service of a disciple. First, there is the danger of a commercial spirit. An old rabbinic story is very similar to the Lord’s parable, but the punch line is entirely different. When the protest is made, the answer silences the objectors: “This man has done more in two hours than you did all day.” We understand that response. It is fair that wages earned should correspond to work done. Unions may protest, but we understand they equity principle – pay equal to work done.

But kingdom economics are very different. If we work for wages, we will get exactly what we desire, no more and no less. We become hirelings, dependent upon our bargaining skills. How much better to be children, dependent upon our Father’s generosity. Our service does not put us in His debt. If we leave the reward to Him, we will be overwhelmed by His generosity.

Rees Howell, the Welsh coal miner turned revival preacher had a heart to serve his Lord. Every day, after a long twelve-hour shift in the mines, he would walk two miles to lead a Bible study in a neighboring village, then return home to sleep. One night he came home in a downpour, completely soaked. “I wouldn’t have walked there and back tonight for twenty pounds,” his father said when he saw him. “Neither would I,” answered Rees quietly. Money was not his motive. People like that don’t need salary, because they don’t serve for wages. They serve an amazing Savior out of love.

Second, the Lord is warning against the danger of a competitive spirit. When the twelve-hour workers saw the one-hour workers and compared themselves to them, “they expected to receive more.” When their eyes focused on what others had received, they were unable to receive their own wages with joy. Saul delighted in his victory over the Philistines, but when he heard David praised more highly than he had been, his heart turned to stone (1 Sam. 18:1-16). Nothing is less appropriate in disciples than comparison and competition.

Once, when driving with a friend through his home town, we came to a bewildering intersection with a confusing array of signals and lights. When I commented to my friend about it, he pointed to a sign that read, “Obey your signals.” That’s always good advice. I would love to evangelized like Billy Graham, preach like Chuch Swindoll, pray like George Mueller, organize like Bill Bright, write like Elizabeth Elliot, and sing like Steve Green. But those are not my signals. When I set my eyes on what the master is giving to other servants, joy evaporates. When I focus on His fairness and abounding generosity to me, joy fills my heart.

Third, there is the danger of a complaining spirit. “They began to grumble against the landowner.” Such grumbling, the Lord reveals, is an attack on the goodness and generosity of God Himself. Furthermore, it exposes the corruption of our hearts. “Are you envious because I am generous?” Who do we think we are to complain about the eternally holy, righteous God? It was the continual murmuring and complaining of Israel in the wilderness that aroused God’s anger. Murmuring is an infectious social disease that robs us and all those around us of joy. Those who focus on their supposed deprivation and lament the cost of their discipleship have missed the wonder of the grace and generosity of our God.

F.B. Meyer once found himself involved in a ministry where the work of two well-known preachers overshadowed his own efforts. It was not easy to deal with the relative unimportance of what he was doing, but his solution reveals the response of a true disciple. “I find in my own ministry that supposing I pray for my own little flock, ‘God bless me, God fill my pews, God send me a revival,’ I miss the blessing; but as I pray for my brother on the right-hand side of my church, ‘God bless him,’ I am sure to get a blessing without paying for it, for the overflow of their cups fills my little bucket.”

The Lord concludes His parable with a statement reminiscent of Mat. 19:30: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Here, however, the contrast is not between disciples and non-disciples. It is rather a reminder that external circumstances are not the key to eternal rewards. The “first,” here, are the 6:00 a.m. workers. As someone save as a child, brought up to love Christ, and given the privilege of ministry at an early age, I am much like those people. Friends of mine were not saved until much later in life than I, and their opportunities for Christian ministry are sometimes smaller than mine. Will those circumstances of life qualify them only for a lesser reward? No, says the Savior, emphatically not. God rewards the faithful heart, and generously touches all He does.

Why do I serve the Lord? Because of fear? Duty? Prestige? Reward? Motives are never entirely pure, and a variety of factors propel us. But we are not hirelings, serving for wages. We are children, delighting in our Father’s work and trusting in His generosity. Peter’s great mistake was that he counted the cost and computed the reward without considering the privilege of service. On December 4, 1857, on the threshold of his return to Africa, David Livingstone tried to put into words the motives that shaped his life:

I personally have never ceased to rejoice that God has entrusted me with His service. People talk a lot about the sacrifice involved in devoting my life to Africa. But can this be called a sacrifice at all if we give back to God a “little of what we owe Him?” And we owe Him so much that we shall never be able to pay off our debt. Can that be called sacrifice which gives us the deepest satisfaction, which develops our best powers, and gives us the greatest hopes and expectations? Away with this word. It is anything but a sacrifice. Rather, call it a “privilege!” (Source: Gary Inrig, “Getting My Due,” The Parables: Understanding What Jesus Meant. Michigan: Discovery House Publishers, 1991, pp. 173-186).

Reflection 6 – The gift is being with the landowner

Purpose: People experience conversion at different points in life.  A conversion late in life is a tremendous gift, but one that is often preceded by the anguish of not knowing the Lord.  For those who experience conversion earlier in life, it is a gift to be with the “landowner” throughout one’s life, something to be grateful for.

Readings: Isaiah 55:6-9; Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18; Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a; Matthew 20:1-16a
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/092114.cfm

Jesus presents us with two different groups of people in today’s Gospel: workers who were hired early in the day, and workers who were hired at the eleventh hour.  Let’s look first at those hired at the eleventh hour.

The people hired at the end of the day seem to have been longing for work all day. It is not because they were lazy that they were not hired, but because, as they explained, “no one has hired us.”  They did not go to work because they could not find it.

In this parable, the image of work is an image for faith in Christ. And the image of the being hired at the end of the day corresponds to coming to faith late in life. As we can imagine the joy and relief of a person who is hired and receives a whole day’s wage at the very end of the day, so, too, we can imagine the joy of a person who experiences a conversion late in life. Similarly, as we can imagine the anguish of a person who cannot find work, we can imagine the anguish of a person who does not yet know the Lord, but longs to known him—whether they are aware of it or not—because it is a desire and a need written on every human heart.

A great example of a person who experienced a conversion later in life, even if it was not at the very end of his life, was St. Augustine of Hippo.  In his spiritual autobiography, The Confessions, he speaks passionately about the torment he went through, not knowing the Lord, and longing to be set free from the sins that held him bound. He speaks beautifully about his conversion, and the joy that came with it.

As he longed for conversion, he would say within himself, “Let it be now, let it be now,” but, as he says, “I still shrank from dying unto death, and living unto life.”  Although he could desire to be converted, although he could want to leave a sinful life behind, he lacked the strength to do it. Something held him back. Nevertheless, Augustine persevered. Like the workers in the Gospel, who kept looking for work and did not give up, Augustine did not give up, eventually being given the grace of conversion.

The moment of Augustine’s conversion is actually quite beautiful. I encourage anyone who has never read The Confession, to read it.  At the moment of Augustine’s conversion, he was in a garden. Once again, he was confused and distraught over what was keeping him from embracing the freedom that Christ gives. Then he heard what he thought was a child’s voice saying: “Take and read, take and read.” Immediately, Augustine stopped crying, and picked up a copy of the letter to the Romans that he had sitting with him. He opened it and read: “let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh.”  Augustine says that, “in that instant, with the very ending of the sentence, it was as though a light of utter confidence shone in all my heart, and all the darkness of uncertainty vanished away.

St. Augustine is a good example of the worker who is hired at the eleventh hour and, yet, who still receives an entire day’s pay.  He is no less of a saint because of his late conversion. In fact, in spite of his late start in the Christian life, he ended up becoming one of the most influential saints in all of Christianity.

So, we might be led to think that those who have always had the faith in their lives would feel themselves to be even more blessed, never having to go through the sometimes anguishing process of leaving behind one way of life in order to embrace one founded on Christ.  But, as the Gospel shows us, sometimes those who have been at work from the beginning of the day, those who have always lived the faith, do not always fully appreciate the gift they have been given.

You can imagine those workers in the Gospel thinking to themselves, at the end of the day: “How unfair! If I had known that I could have gotten the same pay by only getting hired at the end of the day, I would have.”  However, these workers do not realize the pain and anxiety that those people went through, not knowing if a job would even come

We can also draw a parallel here to the life of faith. Don’t we sometimes fail to appreciate the life of faith that has been given us?  Do we not sometimes think: “If I wasn’t Catholic, then I could do X, Y and Z, like the rest of society?”  And maybe sometimes we even go beyond thinking those thoughts, and give into things that we know we should not do, but do anyway.

But living our faith, working in the Lord’s vineyard, is not something that takes away our fun; it is not something that restricts us.  Rather, it means knowing peace and security; it means being set free from anxiety about the ultimate questions in life.  Most importantly, working in the vineyard means knowing the landowner, the Lord.  And it means knowing him now, and not only at some later time.  Because the wage we will receive at the end of the day is nothing other than intimate communion with the Lord. Our reward will not be something apart from God, but will be God himself.  So let us be thankful and grateful for the gift of knowing him now, and let us strive to grow ever deeper in appreciation of that knowledge.