Fr. Tim’s Homily for October 8, 2017

image27th Sunday in Ordinary Time-A

Weekend Two: Homily Before Lay Witness Talk

 

Isaiah 5; 1-7

Philippians 4: 6-9 

Matthew 21: 33-43

At the end of today’s Gospel parable, Jesus quotes a line from Psalm 118: 22.  He says:  “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.  By the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes.”

Jesus is teaching us that He is like the stone that the builders rejected – who has become the cornerstone of the Church.  And Jesus has chosen us to be members of His Church as His disciples.

Rejection:  we all know what it feels like “not to be chosen” or to be “passed over” or “ignored.”

We have an expression in English that involves the experience of rejection:  to “turn someone down.”  Do you know where it comes from?

There is a story from the colonial days in America.  Whether it is fact or fiction, I don’t know.  But if it isn’t true, it ought to be.

Here is the story:  when a young man was courting a young lady and wanted to ask her to marry him, he would take a “courting mirror” in his hand.

He would look into the mirror, as though to put his face there permanently.  And then he would lay the mirror, face-side up, on a table in front of his beloved.

If she picked up the mirror as though to look at his face and then to put her face there too, the answer that she gave him was, “Yes, I will marry you,” without even saying a word.

But if she took the mirror and simply turned it over with his face to the table, she had symbolically “turned him down.”

Jesus asks us to see His face mirrored in the unborn, the immigrant, the hungry and poor, the elderly, the lonely – in the faces of all of His beloved – and not “to turn them down.”  For Jesus never “turns us down.”

Jesus is teaching us that He is the stone that the builders rejected – that the builders “turned down – who has become the cornerstone of the Church.   Jesus has chosen us to be members of His Church.  And, as His disciples, stewardship is our grateful response to Him.

All that I have is a gift from God:  my life itself, my time, my talents and my treasure.  God wants me to receive these gifts from Him gratefully, to develop them with an increase, to share them generously, so that each person gives as they have been blessed and each person receives as they need.

Stewardship as a way of life is all about becoming even better disciples of Jesus each day – and, as our response to His call, to see God’s blessings all around us and not to “turn down” opportunities to share them.

I hope that you have received your stewardship packet in the mail by now.  If you have not received yours, please let us know in the parish offices.  We want every household to have one so that you can read its contents and be ready to make your stewardship commitments next Sunday.

To assist you in your decisions, there is a Ministries Fair in the Saint Joseph Social Hall right after Mass today.  Many of our ministry leaders will be there to answer questions you might have after looking through our Ministry Catalog.

There will be no sign-ups at the Ministries Fair, no pressure to join.  Just a chance to find out more about ministries here in our parishes.  Anyone in Saint Joseph and Nativity Parishes can sign up for any ministry in this catalog, no matter which parish they belong to.

There will also be free food and fine fellowship for us all at our Ministries Fair.  So please stop by after Mass.

And let us keep each other in prayerful support this week as we make our stewardship decisions and bring our completed commitment cards with us to Mass next weekend.

And right now I would like to present to you our Director of Youth Ministry for our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parishes, John Kowalski, who will speak to us about how he is embracing stewardship more fully in his life.

Fr. Tim’s Homily for October 1, 2017

image26th Sunday in Ordinary Time-A

Respect Life Sunday

Weekend One: Introduction to Stewardship Renewal

 

Ezekiel 18: 25-28 

Philippians 2:1-11 

Matthew 21: 28-32

 

 

Jesus loved to tell stories – parables – especially when the ending was not what His audience was expecting.  And today’s is a case in point.  He begins the parable by saying, “A man had two sons…”  And as soon as we hear that there are two kids involved, we know we are in for some high drama!

The man said to his first son, “Go out and work in my vineyard today.”  That first son answered, “I will not!”  But later he changed his mind and went.

He said to his second son, “Go out and work in my vineyard today,” and the second son answered, [like Eddie Haskell],“Yes, sir!”  But he never went.

Then Jesus asks, “Which of those two sons did his father’s will?”  The first son did – who at first had refused but later changed his mind and went.  The second son had agreed to go, but never showed up.  Neither gave the ideal response.

And so someone aptly entitled this parable:  “The Better of Two Bad Boys.”

Now, any of you who are parents know the climate of this parable:  when you say to your kids in your sweetest, most endearing tone of voice – the one that you almost always use at home – “Oh my dear one, would you kindly clean your room?”  Or, “Would you find it in your heart to help with the dishes?”  Or, “If you wouldn’t mind, would you please get busy with your homework?”  And sometimes “the doing requested” just doesn’t get done, right?

And young people:  you know how to block what your parents want done – it’s called “the stall tactic.”  “Oh yes, I’d be delighted to do that – but in fifteen minutes” or “as soon as this show is over.”  Right?  And sometimes “the doing requested” just doesn’t get done.

But no matter what our age or circumstances, you and I can find ourselves in this parable.

C.S. Lewis gives us this line:  “God doesn’t love us because we are good, but God will make us good because He loves us.”  This means that we are not good by our own power.  It is the other way around.  God enables us to be good.  God gives us the grace of conversion to change our minds and do what He asks.  “God doesn’t love us because we are good, but God will make us good because He loves us.”

We find ourselves, I believe, in this parable.  Sometimes we do what God asks us to do right away.  But there are other times when we say “no” to God, and then later change our minds and say “yes.”  God gives us the grace to come back and follow through.

“God doesn’t love us because we are good, but God will make us good because He loves us.”

On this Respect Life Sunday, and every day of the year, we proclaim the value of every human life from the moment life begins at conception until the moment of natural death, and all the time in between.  And we proclaim the sacredness and beauty of the family in God’s plan.

When we were baptized, we became the adopted children of God – His beloved daughters and sons.  And we do not live in isolation.  We are a part of God’s own family, the Church, and we all have a valuable part to play.

This is the link with stewardship as a way of life.  Stewardship is the way that we cherish and reverence God’s gift of human life:  my own life and every human life.  For God is the author of life.

As a steward of God’s bountiful blessings, I acknowledge that all that I have is a gift from God:  my very life itself, my time, my talents and my treasure.  God wants me to receive these gifts from Him gratefully, to develop them with an increase and, because of my gratitude, to share them generously, so that each person gives as they have been blessed and each person receives as they need.

Stewardship as a way of life is all about becoming even better disciples of Jesus:  being ready to say “yes” to Him and to follow through.

This week you will be receiving a stewardship packet in the mail.  It contains:  (1) a letter from me;   (2) an explanation of our annual stewardship renewal in Saint Joseph and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parishes;  (3) a “Ministry Catalog” which describes each of the current ministries in our parishes as well as a contact person;  all ministries are available for members of both of our parishes to participate in;  (4) and a “2017 Commitment Card” specially marked for each parish that enables each household to check off ministry involvements that they would like to renew for another year or that they would like to join for one year.

If your stewardship packet does not arrive this week, please let us know in the parish offices because we want every household to have one.

Next weekend, 7-8 October, at all of the Masses I will offer a very short homily and it will be followed by a fellow parishioner who will give a witness talk about how they are implementing stewardship more fully in their personal lives.

After all of the Masses next weekend you are invited and encouraged to come to our Ministries Fair which will be hosted in Saint Joseph Social Hall.  Our ministry leaders will be there to answer questions you might have after looking through your Ministry Catalog.  There will be no sign-ups at the Ministry Fair, no pressure to join.  Just a chance to find out more about ministries here in our parishes.

There will also be food and fellowship for us all.

The following weekend, 14-15 October, is our annual Commitment Sunday.  You are asked to bring your completed commitment cards to Mass two weeks from now with your one-year commitments of time, talent and treasure.  And we will place them in the Offertory basket together.

Jesus told us today a parable about “The Better of Two Bad Boys.”

Stewardship as a way of life is all about becoming even better disciples of Jesus each day and being ready to say “yes” to Him and to follow through.

I would ask you today to look into your own heart during this Mass.  Is there any aspect of your living right now where you are saying “no” to God or engaging in a “stall tactic” towards His will?

If so, God is giving us the opportunity to think it over and, with His grace, to turn that “no” into a “yes” – and to follow through.

“God doesn’t love us because we are good, but God will make us good because He loves us.”

And THAT is our hope and our prayer.

Fr. Tim’s Homily for September 24, 2017

image25th Sunday in Ordinary Time-A

Isaiah 55: 6-9 

Philippians 1: 20c-24, 27a 

Matthew 20: 1-16a

 

The Gospel that we just heard comes up on this Sunday every three years.  And every three years when we hear this parable of Jesus we can become a little disturbed …. because it doesn’t seem fair.

A landowner goes out to get workers for his vineyard at the crack of dawn, and promises to give them the usual daily wage.  He goes out again for workers at 9:00, again at noon, again at 3:00, and once again at 5:00.  And quitting time is 6:00.  And they ALL get the same pay.

Some of the workers object:  “We’ve worked a 12-hour shift, and these one-hour workers got the same pay as we did!  It’s not fair!”

Perhaps that is how we feel when we listen to this Gospel – it doesn’t seem fair.

However, if we look at this parable alongside some other parables that Jesus told, we find a delightful surprise:  this parable is not as crazy as it initially sounds.

Four other parables of Jesus drive home the same point:

1] One was about a servant who owed his master a huge amount, and the master forgave him the whole debt;  2] another about a lost sheep;  3]  another about a lost coin;  4] and still another about a prodigal son.

They all make the same point:  God often acts toward us in ways that we would not expect.  These parables all show us the kind of God that we serve.

As God says through the Prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading:  “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts.”

1] What first-century master would say to a servant who owed him a huge debt, “I forgive you the whole thing.”  That wouldn’t happen then any more than Visa or MasterCard would say today, “We are wiping out those thousands of dollars you owe on your credit card just because you called us today.”

2] No sensible shepherd would leave 99 sheep and go in search of one measly run-away sheep.

3] No sane person would sweep and clean the house for hours, hoping to find a lost coin that was worth ten cents.

4] No reasonable parent would welcome back a wayward child – who had really hurt them – with a big party.  A sensible parent would probably put that returning child on probation – to see how repentant they really were.

5] And in today’s Gospel, who in the world would pay somebody who only worked for one hour the same amount as they would pay somebody who had worked for 12 hours?  We wouldn’t do that.

All of these five stories of Jesus are designed to take our breath away and cause us to ponder the kind of God that we serve:  “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts,” says the Lord.

There was a musical on Broadway that ran for 18 years, entitled Les Miserables, or Les Mis, based on the novel by Victor Hugo.  The central character is Jean Valjean who had been in prison for 19 years, and why?  Because he had stolen a loaf of bread to feed his hungry family.

Jean Valjean came out of prison a very bitter man.  When he got back to the neighborhood people didn’t want to have much to do with him because, after all, he was an “ex-convict.”

There was a very kind bishop in the town who invited the newly-released Jean Valjean to have dinner with him and to spend the night in his guest room.  For the dinner, the bishop used his finest silver plates, which he only brought out for very special guests.  During the night Jean Valjean stole the silver plates and headed out of town.

He got stopped by the police.  They searched his belongings and found the bishop’s silver plates.  He protested that they were a gift from the bishop.

So the police took him back to the bishop’s house.  And the bishop said to Jean Valjean, “I am so glad that you came back, because I meant to give you the matching silver candlesticks as well.”

Because of this totally unexpected, merciful forgiveness of the bishop Jean Valjean became a changed man.  He began to serve others with great mercy and with generous kindness.

Now, think of those five parables:  who is the bishop like in each of them?  The bishop is like:  1] the master who forgives a huge debt;  2] the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep;  3] the house sweeper looking for the lost coin;  4] the father awaiting and celebrating the return of his prodigal son;  5] and he is like the landowner who pays the one-hour workers a full day’s wage.

How could anybody treat someone like that?  And it doesn’t seem fair?

But that is what our God does, all the time.  “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts,” says the Lord.

How would I summarize all of these parables today?  Very, very simply.  There were cries from: 1] the lost servant, 2] the lost sheep, 3] the lost coin, 4] the lost son and 5] the lost workers.  God heard their cries and went out and found them.

God continues to do that.  God hears our cries and finds us.  And we find ourselves in the loving and merciful embrace of our God.

And what is our God like?  “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts,” says the Lord.

What an awesome God we are privileged to serve!

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