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Scripture Readings: Proverbs 31.10-13,19-20, 30-31; 1 Thessalonians 5.1-6; Matthew 25.14-30
A man going on a journey summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them, according to the abilities of each. To one, he gave five talents; to a second, he gave two talents; to a third, one talent. Immediately the servant who received five talents invested them and made another five. In the same way, the servant who received two talents doubled the figure. The servant who received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and buried the master’s money. After a long absence, the master came home. – Matthew 15.14-18
From the start Sunday’s gospel is a parable of judgment. Matthew’s gospel has three judgment parables in chapter 25–the wise and foolish girls (last Sunday), the talents, and the works of mercy (next Sunday). The parables anticipate Jesus will come in glory and judgment at some time and urge us to active faith.
In the parable of the talents the master sizes up his servants and entrusts his property to them according to their ability. Indeed the industrious and reliable first servant and the good and trustworthy second servant double their talents, advance to larger affairs, and share the master’s joy when he returns. The third servant buries his single talent and blames his master. Out of fear of his master’s harshness the third servants has done nothing with it. The master has no sympathy with the man’s fear and casts him out of the community of joy into which he welcomed the other two.
One talent is equivalent to 6,000 denari. One denarius was a day’s wage in Jesus’ time. The five talents the first servant receives would take 85 years for an ordinary laborer to earn. The master has not given the servants a pittance to trust their trustworthiness.
The priceless windfall each of us has received is life itself, our unique gifts, and family and friends whose lives we share. Our ancestors invested in relationships and efforts that have brought us to be. Jesus invested his life in the human race, opening to us all we can become in God. How do we use these extravagant down payments on ourselves?
With whom in the parable do you identify–the servants who risk their talents or the one whose fear paralyzes him? What gifts and talents are yours to put to work in our fractured society today?
I was lucky to have a mother who never stopped teaching, even on a shopping trip. – S. Joan
"Now stay on the second note when I go up," mother coached me. So for the 50 miles to St. Cloud in the car we kept singing, mother repeating, "When it's spring time in the Rockies…" until I did it. I heard the harmony, not just a second part I memorized; I held my place in the chords, that day mostly simple thirds but ever after I could find a place in a chord, make harmonies, a gift awakened I didn't know I had and later in the chapel choir singers sometimes listened chords into perfect pitch, the harmonics ringing in octives beyond hearing, evoking the sublime. - by Sister Joan Mitchell, CSJ
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Scripture Readings: Revelation 7.2-4,9-14; 1 John 3.1-3; Matthew 5.1-12
“Blessed are the poor in spirit; the reign of God belongs to them.” – Matthew 5.3
The beatitudes turn our assumptions about whom God blesses upside down. The eight sayings challenge us to live in ways quite contrary to profit-motivated values. The beatitudes expand in detail what the commandments to love God and neighbor ask of Christians.
God has not cursed or abandon but blesses people who are poor, sorrowing, and meek. God challenge us to bless them, too. The fourth beatitude blesses a hunger and thirst for holiness; the fifth blesses all who show the mercy they would like to receive. We are all capable of the actions the beatitudes ask of us.
The challenge to purity of heart often get sidetracked as about sexual issues but it’s about spirituality, about seeking and seeing God’s presence in our lives. Our world needs peacemakers who can open our eyes to others’ needs and experience and lead us to welcome rather than distain people different from us. We risk persecution in seeking justice but it’s part of treating our neighbors as ourselves.
Using this gospel on the feast of All Saints tells us the beatitudes outline the ordinary life of all Christians. A saint is a person in progress, not a finished product. Each of us offers a distinctive blessing on those we accompany in life. As St. Augustine writes, of the multitude of saints, “By passing along the narrow road they widen it; and while they went along, trampling on the rough ways, they went ahead of us.”
Think of a recent example in which you have experienced someone acting in the spirit of one or all of the beatitudes or is a distinctive blessing of his or her own.
Sunday Readings: Exodus 22.20-26; 1 Thessalonians 1.5-10; Matthew 22.34-40
“Teacher, which commandment of the law is the greatest?” – Matthew 22.36
In the gospels of the fall Sundays, Jesus inhabits the temple courts, teaching and disputing questions with other Jewish teachers and officials. The issues — tenants, taxes, and this Sunday, which commandment of the 613 is greatest?
As citizens this fall, we dispute our own questions in the public square as we prepare to elect leaders. By whose authority shall we live? What kind of tenants shall we be on a planet home that is God’s gift and the inheritance of all? Who can our taxes help?
Matthew writes in the mid A.D. 80s after the Romans destroyed the temple, so for his Jewish audience the question intensifies — on what foundation do we build a future? Jesus’ answer is love God with your whole heart, spirit, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself (Deuteronomy 6.5 and Leviticus 19.18).
The first commandment calls us to love God with all our heart, spirit, and mind. On what or whom do we set our hearts? We live in mystery, existing without having made ourselves, and for what purpose? How do we listen to our spirit and the Holy Spirit? We can use our minds to envision our farthest goals, to laugh at failure, remember success, to cry, sing, dance, praise, to start over and over. To what use do we out our minds?
Love of God is inseparable from love of neighbor. In God’s creation no one is alien. The fourth to the tenth commandments are the hammer and nails of Christian community.
What sustains your heart and commitment to God? Who that you once considered alien have you come to treat as neighbor? What demonstrates love most convincingly to you?
In Advent this year (only 8 weeks away) we read from the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s gospel is the shortest; also the one written closest to Jesus’ time. This fall is the perfect time to start a Bible study with friends or parishioners.
Sister Joan explores the stories and themes of Marks’ Gospel in 11 short chapters, making it ideal for small groups to read and discuss. The book is equally helpful for homilists, who have a chance to explore Mark all year long.
Read the table of contents and a sample chapter. Then call 1-800-232-5533 to place your order.
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This poem was first sent to me by a dear friend, Mary Gormley Frenza. For years, we sent it to each other every autumn. This year it goes to all of you. May the harmony of leaf and flower be your companion today.
APOLOGY TO MY NEIGHBORS IN AUTUMN
In these still days far lovelier than summer
There is no need of talk, no need to hear
Tales of strange places from each latest comer.
Rather avoid all comers, rather fear
The whir of motors chugging up the drive.
Like the assiduous bees who haste to hive
In attic windows, striving now to win
The last gold honey for the last wax bin,
So I for my own harvest must be free.
The humming silence is compelling me
To swing the hinges on each rusty door
That locked away my spirit, and let pour
Inward the harmony of leaf and flower.
I could sit, sun-drenched, on this hummock,
hour by hour,
Sloughing off worldliness, growing as sound
And simple as this pear tree on this ground.
Mildred Whitney Stillman
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Sunday Readings: Isaiah 25.6-10; Philippians 4.12-14,19-20; Matthew 22.1-10
“The banquet is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out onto the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” – Matthew 22.9
The meal Jesus describes in Sunday’s gospel parable is more than the lavish dinner Luke describes in his gospel. Matthew turns the parable into an allegory. The dinner becomes a royal wedding feast for God’s Son, Jesus, the messiah, Israel’s long-anticipated king of peace. Those who refuse to come to the feast don’t believe Jesus is the messiah.
Without the wedding allegory the parable raises everyday questions. Why do people refuse invitations or come late or just do a cameo? The parable asks us to look at how we relate to others and examine our priorities — the farm, the business, family, friends — what, who comes first? Guests who refuse an invitation risk never being invited again. Snubbed hosts have insult and anger to process. What about the leftover food?
For Matthew, Jesus the messiah hosts the wedding banquet every time Christians gather in his name and break bread together. Eucharist fulfills the prophet Isaiah’s vision of God setting a great feast for all nations. For Christians eucharist is this messianic meal, a feast that invites people of every nation to its abundance.
Who do you invite to your table? What do you like about a wedding feast as an image of the kingdom of God?
Scripture Readings: Isaiah 5.1-7; Philippians 4.6-9; Matthew 21.33-43
“With that the tenants seized the son, dragged him outside the vineyard, and killed him. When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” – Matthew 21.40
The vineyard workers in Sunday’s gospel are tenants. Like them, my family lived on someone else’s farm, worked the land, and shared the crops with the owner.
I like to drive past the farm where I grew up. I know the lay of the land like a pro golfer knows a course, the crests of the hills, the sloughs, the immovable rocks along the fence lines. As I learned the land and worked it with Dad and Grandpa, it seemed to belong to us.
Few people farm today but many city people rent and lease. For someone who owns buildings, an ideal tenant treats the leased space as if it were his or her own.
But tenants always cause wear. Apartments need painting and repair. The rent due at the end of every month reminds tenants who the owner is. The end of a lease brings up settling the damage deposit.
On farms, tenants and owner square up at harvest. In Sunday’s gospel the owner’s servants discover trouble in the vineyard. The tenants feel the entire grape harvest belongs to them.
In the first reading the prophet Isaiah lament for God about a vineyard that has produced sour grapes. Instead of justice, equality, and generous sharing of resources, God’s people fail to keep the covenant. The prophet calls them to return.
What is your experience of being a tenant? Of being an owner who rents to others? In whom or in what do you invest despite disappointment?