Today's Gospel reading is one of the most confounding. Many people struggle with this parable about the landowner and the workers, but as the old saying goes, where you stumble, that's where you should dig for treasure. The parable offers a powerful reminder to focus on the mission of God's kingdom, not who gets credit for it.
In today's brief selection from St. Paul's letter to the Romans, we learn, “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord.” This affirms that your life is not about you! It’s about God and God’s purpose for you. It’s about being drawn out of your comfort zone and into the adventurous space of divine mission.
If there is one absolute in our secular culture today it is non-judgmentalism. Some people, seeking to defend this point of view from a Biblical perspective, will point to Jesus’ famous enjoinder: “Judge not and you will not be judged.” But what should be clear is that this cannot mean that we never point out moral failures—for Jesus does that all the time. How should we navigate the ways of judgement and love? Our second reading, from Paul to the Romans, is eminently helpful here.
I’ve always loved the prophet Jeremiah, and not just as a literary/spiritual figure, but as a person. He was known as the “weeping prophet” and his nickname was “terror on every side.” Against that background, we listen to him in our reading for today and gain encouragement as we evangelize through struggle.
I want to concentrate this week on our second reading, which is a very brief passage from Paul’s magnificent letter to the Romans. It comes at the end of chapter eleven, which completes the Apostle’s consideration of Israel in relation to the Church. How do we make sense of the ancient Jewish tradition in light of the resurrection? How do we understand gentiles coming to the faith when salvation was supposed to be through the Jews, many of whom were rejecting the Christian faith? Looking into these questions, we learn about the inscrutability of God.
Christians have said for centuries that everything is a grace, that no one deserves anything, and therefore we should never complain about inequities. How can this be fair that some people are clearly chosen by God while others are not? Well, with this dilemma in mind, let’s look at our first reading and our Gospel for today. These passages reveal that Israel is named a chosen people not for their own sake but for the sake of the whole world. The key to understanding grace is that it is given to be given away.
Elijah is a contemplative who has the eyes to see and the ears to listen. God does not appear in the glory of the world. Rather, he appears in a silent way. Weed out of your heart all of those fears and desires that prevent you from discerning the silent presence of God.
The Transfiguration signals the purpose of religion. The first thing we notice is that Jesus' appearance becomes more beautiful. Second, in his transfigured state, Jesus transcends space and time. Contemporary culture attempts to reduce all religion to ethics, but in Jesus' transfiguration we see that the final purpose of our religious devotion is not that we become just nice people, but rather we become transfigured as sons and daughters of God.
Our second reading for this weekend is taken from the end of the eighth chapter of Paul’s magnificent letter to the Romans. In this great book of the Bible, we learn that in Christ, God has disclosed his providential plan whereby he intends to reconcile all things to himself. I don’t know about you, but those words always give me comfort and peace.
The Gospel for this Sunday is taken from the 13th Chapter of the Gospel of Matthew and it features three marvelous parables of Jesus. How rich are these parables! How inexhaustible in meaning! Take some time to read and contemplate these parables in light of your own suffering and faith as we seek together the Kingdom of God.