September 27, 2014
Freedom and True Love
The father, a figure of absolute authority in an ancient culture, only asks his sons to go and work in the vineyard. He does not force them.
God gives us free will, and God allows us to freely choose how we would respond to God’s love.
The father does not check on the son who said “yes,” to see if he keeps his words.
We know we do not always deserve the trust and respect God puts in us. But God stills respect the freedom that God has given us.
There, God does not impose on us God’s love with a kind of force obligation. Rather, God offers us a constant invitation to grow in true love.
Lastly, we have Jesus, who is the exemplary Son of the Father. By this time in Matthew’s narrative, Jesus has entered Jerusalem. There, he would soon offer the supreme act of obedience and love to the Father: he freely chose to do the Father’s will by accepting the cross. His whole life, in attitudes, words and action, is an act of love.
September 20, 2014
“Am I not free to do what I please with my own?”
The landowner hires five groups of laborers. Yet, it is only with the first group does he have an agreement with them about their wages.
At the end of the workday, he pays them the agreed amount.
Jesus does not say anything about the attitude of all the laborers who were hired late in the day.
Only the first group complains. It is probably understandable that they feel cheated. But they receive the amount they have agreed with the landowner.
Jesus begins the parable with, “The kingdom of heaven is like.”
Membership in the kingdom is not something upon which we agreed with God. God is not obliged to give it to us, as the landowner asks the first laborers, “Am I not free to do what I please with my own?”
It is a grace, freely given. Blessed are those who recognize God’s graciousness to us.
September 12, 2014
The Bridge Love Builds
The basic tenets of the Christian faith can be found all in this passage of John’s Gospel. Indeed, the Cross summarizes it all.
- We can’t go to God on our own (“No one has gone up to heaven”).
- God loves us so much that God does not want us to perish, but to have eternal life.
- God’s love is so great that God’s only Son comes to bring us to God
- That’s the only way.
- And the Son does that by his death on the cross.
There, the cross is the bridge between us and God. It is the bridge built of love.
September 6, 2014
Matthew 18: 15-20
In My Name
First, the context of the Sunday Gospels of Year A. This passage of Matthew 18: 15 – 20 follows what we heard a week ago from Matthew 16: 21-27. There, Jesus invited anyone who “wishes” to become his disciple “to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
And today, Jesus gives a concrete demand of how to put that instruction into practice, namely what to do when others sin against us.
Second, the context of Chapter 18 of Matthew. This passage is preceded by Jesus’ instruction on how to care for “the little ones who believe in [him].” The greatest crime occurs when scandals cause the loss of one of these little ones.
Next comes the parable of the good shepherd who goes searching for the lost sheep. The parable ends with Jesus’ affirmation, “it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” (v. 14)
And then, in today’s Gospel (verses 15-19) Jesus insists that efforts must be made to keep God’s children in God’s house.
Following this passage, Jesus teaches the seemingly impossible demand of forgiving one’s brother “seventy-seven times” (v. 21-22). Afterwards, Jesus expands on the reason for such a demand – God has forgiven us first to the greatest extent. He teaches this with the parable of a servant whose master forgives him a huge debt, yet he is unforgiving toward a fellow servant who owes him a tiny amount.
Jesus calls his followers to form and follow him carrying the cross to preserve the community of love and forgiveness where two or three are gathered in his name. Such a community witnesses to the presence of God among humanity. In this kind of a community, “There am I in the midst of them” (v. 20)