How do we wait? That is the question addressed by Jesus' parable for today. While we wait for the second coming of the Lord, we should keep our lamps stocked with oil, that is to say, we should pray, study, love, do the works of mercy, and keep vigil. In so doing, we are ready for the arrival of the Bridegroom.
Our readings for this weekend are tough for everyone, but especially for those who are in positions of leadership in the Church. I’ve been a priest for 31 years (and now a bishop for going on three), and I will confess that the words we hear from the prophet Malachi and the Lord Jesus about the corrupt religious leadership of their time and place are deeply challenging and unnerving.
Today's magnificent Gospel should set the tone for your entire life. Trying to trap him, the Pharisees ask Jesus which of the commandments of the law is the greatest. His clear and simple answer is that we should direct all our love toward God, and therefore, love what he loves.
Many devout believers find the parable of the wedding feast in the Gospel of Matthew difficult to understand. The story is meant to stir us up with its exaggeration, to signal the spiritual destruction that follows from refusing the divine invitation. We are meant to see how valuable an invitation we have received and how odd it is that we would choose to reject it.
Today's readings pose a question: how are we tending the vineyard? We have received so much from God, but are we making the world fruitful? Are we responding to the Lord’s invitation with the works of justice, love, peace, chastity, respect for others? Or are we more or less killing the messengers?
Some skeptics suggest the divinity of Jesus is a myth, or a later invention of the Church, that Jesus was nothing more than an ordinary man or great teacher. But in today's text from St. Paul, an exceptionally early text traced to within a handful of years of Jesus' death, we find a clear declaration of the contrary. Jesus is described as being in the “form of God,” a staggering claim that affirms his divinity. Yet even still, he did not grasp at his godliness, but emptied himself and took the form a slave.
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.