Saturday, September 24, 2005



SEPTEMBER 25, 2005

EZEKIEL 18:25-28
Thus says the LORD: You say, "The LORD's way is not fair!" Hear now,
house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your
ways unfair? When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit
iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he
must die. But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, he does
what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned
away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he
shall not die.

Brothers and sisters: If there is any encouragement in Christ, any
solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and
mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love,
united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or
out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than
yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for
those of others. Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ
Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard
equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human
in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of
death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the
name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth
and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is
Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

MATTHEW 21:28-32
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: "What is your
opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, 'Son, go
out and work in the vineyard today.' He said in reply, 'I will not, '
but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son
and gave the same order. He said in reply, 'Yes, sir, `but did not go.
Which of the two did his father's will?" They answered, "The first."
Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in
the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors
and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later
change your minds and believe him."

Today's Gospel appears to be quite self-evident - a father and two
sons. Each son is asked to work in the father's vineyard. One
refuses, then goes. The other says, "Yes sir, It's done," but never
does. Which of them was obedient? The application? The really
obedient among the Jews were not the religious leaders, but the ungodly
tax collectors and prostitutes. These will enter God's kingdom; the
high the mighty will not.

The trouble is, this is a passage, a little piece cut out of proper
context of the Gospels for the 26th Sunday of the Church year. It only
makes Gospel sense, regains its richness, if you replace it back within
the Gospel.

So first, let's put the parable back into the Gospel. The parable of
the Two Sons belongs to a special group - parables that tell us not
only that God has come to save us, but that the Savior has come to the
poor, that Jesus has come to save sinners. It belongs to the parables
of mercy.

Remember the shepherd who loses one sheep, leaves the other 99 in the
fields, goes after the one that has strayed: "There will be more joy in
heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who
need no repentance."

And the woman who loses one silver coin, forgets about the rest of her
money, lights a lamp, sweeps the house frantically till she finds it:
"Just so ... there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who

Remember the Pharisee and the tax collector in the temple. And now the
two sons: "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes
go into the kingdom of God before you."

The significant fact about these parables of mercy is that each of them
was addressed to the opponents of Jesus: murmuring scribes, grumbling
Pharisees, critical theologians, and here today, members of the
Sanhedrin. These are enemies of the Gospel, indignant that Jesus
should assert that God cares about sinners, incensed that he would eat
with people they despised. What does he tell them? These sinners,
these people you despise, are nearer to God than you. They may have
disobeyed God's call; their professions have debased them; but they
have shown sorrow and repentance. More than that, they are the people
who can appreciate God's goodness; they have what the critics of Jesus
lack: a deep gratitude to God for His goodness.

It's a strong lesson, strongly phrased. Those who should have been the
leading candidates for entry into God's kingdom are precisely those who
are in danger of not getting in at all. Pharisees, models of
observance, whose lifeblood was the Law of Moses, who knew the law
thoroughly and followed it exactly: Sabbath and feast days, ritual
purity, tithing, dietary rules - 613 imperatives. The scribes,
lawyers and teachers of the law, devoted to its study and exposition,
the members of the Sanhedrin, the supreme council and tribunal of the
Jews, these people will watch the lowliest of the low parading into the
kingdom, and they will be standing outside scratching their beards,
wondering what happened.

What did go wrong? Precisely here is the meaning of the parable for
all Christians. The people with power, the people with knowledge, were
sure they were upright, righteous, right with God. Why? Because they
know the law and they kept it - to the last detail. If anything was
prescribed, they knew it and did it.

Everything - save one thing. everything - save the most important
thing. What Jesus said to the Pharisees: "Go, and learn what this
means: `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.'" Of course the sacrifices
in the temple were important; God Himself had prescribed them. But
when the Jews' burnt offerings took precedence over burning injustice,
when temple observance kept them from providing for the fatherless and
aiding the stranger, from defending the downtrodden and protecting the
poor, then their sacrifices became an "abomination" to the Lord. Yes,
an abomination.

And so for us Christians, faith of course is precious to us; it is our
response to God's revealing of Himself. But, to echo the letter of
James, "What does it profit, my brothers and sisters, if a man says he
has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or
sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to
them, `Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the
things needed for the body, what does it profit?'"

Of course our love of God takes priority over all else; unless we love
God, we lose God, now and forever. But the first commandment of the
law makes no Jewish or Christian sense without the second commandment:
"You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself."

Of course, the Sacrifice of the Mass is the focus, the center, the
heart of our worship. But even this unique memorial of Jesus' passion
makes no Christian sense, if we cannot respond to the dying man on the
Jericho road, if we are Sunday Christians, always on time for Mass,
while all about us are men, women, and children half-dead for want of
our bread or our love, our Eucharist is sham, an escape from Christ
calling us from the midst of the world.

Christ our Savior is not a respecter of persons. At the Last
Judgment he will not say to me: "Ah yes, you're a Jesuit. Enter into
the joy of the Lord!" If we can believe the Gospel of Matthew, Christ
will want to know what I did when his belly was bloated with hunger,
his tongue tortured with thirst; when he had no place to lay his head,
no clothes for his nakedness; when he was alone with his sickness or a
faceless number in prison.

St. John of God preached, "A Christian should always remember that the
value of his good works is not based on their number and excellence,
but on the love of God which prompts him to do these things.

The prayers we offer are merely lip service, if those prayers do not
come from the heart; the money we give to charity mean nothing if they
are not given out of a sense of gratitude to God for all we have
received and of responsibility for the poor as our brothers and sisters
in Christ; our reading of Scripture and listening to the Gospel is
pointless unless it results in a conversion of spirit that shakes us to
the souls. Discipleship begins within our hearts, where
we realize Christ's presence in the lives of the distant poor and
marginalized and then honor that presence in meaningful acts of
compassion and charity.

Let's close with Cardinal Newman's reflection and prayer:

"God has committed some work to me
which he has not committed to another.
I have my mission -
I may never know it in this life,
But I shall be told it in the next. ...

"Therefore, I will trust him.
He does nothing in vain.
He may prolong my life, he may shorten it;
He knows what he is about. ...

"O my God, I will put myself without reserve
into thy hands." Amen

We pray ...
- for a deep and profound respect for life, especially for the
- for the speedy recovery of Maritess Desembrana.
- Birthday: Anabelle M. Rubio
- for the personal intentions of Grace.
- for the speedy recovery of Charleen.
- for the speedy recovery of Cherie Gillian J. Wee
- for the enlightenment and special intentions of Vincent Gregory L. Sy

- for the enlightenment and spiritual guidance of J.C.
- for the good health of Elsa, Paolo & Renie
- for the eternal repose of the souls of Cristina, Rosvie & Aljohn.
Eternal rest grant unto them and may perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.
- for the eternal repose of the soul of Tom Balagot. Eternal rest grant
unto him and may perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.
- for the eternal repose of the soul of Haydee Yorac. Eternal rest
grant unto her and may perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in
- for the eternal repose of the soul of Consuelo Venturina. Eternal
rest grant unto her and may perpetual light shine upon her. May she
rest in peace.
- for the eternal repose of the soul of Elizabeth O. Ting. Eternal rest
grant unto her and may perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in
- for all the prayer intentions in the MTQ Dailyprayer Diary.
- for world peace and reconciliation.

Finally, we pray for one another, for those who have asked our
prayers and for those who need our prayers the most.

Have a good day!

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