October 25, 2008


30th Sunday - A

Matthew 22:34 – 40

What is the bottom line?

We always want proofs. That seems to be a part of our human nature. An academic essay must have quotations with authoritative source. In a serious discussion and debate, one always needs to back up one ideas or statements with statistics and facts.

The same goes with our moral principles. We want to know why, what the source is, etc. Try to get in a debate with somebody on moral or religious issue. The common question is often, “Where do you find that in the Bible?” (or the teaching of a faith tradition, for that matter).

The people in the time of Jesus seemed to have the same mentality. The Jews practiced as many as 613 regulations and precepts, all with backups found in the Torah. Since they are all in Scriptures, they must be valid. But with so many laws, no wonder why there was a need to divide them according to different levels of importance. That was why the Pharisees asked Jesus the question, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest.”

Jesus again gives us the answer that goes beyond the question. It is not the issue which law is the greatest. It is not where we find a law or regulation. The bottom line is all laws and regulations are only expressions of the two equally important commandments of love. In fact, in the words of St. Matthew, “the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” In the original language, the word for “depend on” can be translated as “hang on.” Think of a line that hangs on 2 poles, or a door held up by the two hinges. For Jesus, the two commandments of love work in a similar way. In this way, Jesus did not toss out the law and commandments. They remain valid. Yet, they are only meaningful if we observe them out of love.

30th Sunday - A (October 26, 2008)


October 18, 2008


29th Sunday - A

Matthew 22: 15 - 21

Is it convenient for me?

The Pharisees and the Herodians are at odds with each other when it comes to the issue of paying taxes to the Roman authorities, especially what known as the toll tax . For the Pharisees, who staunchly defend the Jewish religion and national identity, the only true ruler for Israel is God. Therefore, paying taxes to a human ruler, worse, a foreign ruler, is the equivalence of denouncing God. The Herodians, on the contrary, who have come to power thanks to Roman protection, Roman taxation is a matter of survival.

Yet, surprisingly, the two opposite groups join force in questioning Jesus' position on the issue of paying taxes. They decide to work together because it's convenient for them to destroy the common enemy - Jesus.

Jesus catches them at their very act. They want to trick Jesus, but it backfires. They are ready and willing to enjoy Ceasar's economic system. The fact is that they carry his coins with them. Yet, they want to appear righteous when they challenge Jesus. Again, they do things that are convenient to them.

In the second reading for this Sunday, St. Paul reminds us, as he reminded the Thessalonians, that we are "chosen and loved by God" (1 Thess. 1:4). We should ask ourselves, "Do I strive to live as a child of God all the times, or only when it is convenient?"

October 11, 2008


28th Sunday - A

Matthew 22: 1 - 14

I have prepared my banquet

A great banquet for all people was a Jewish idea to describe the age of the Messiah. Jesus took the idea and made the banquet a royal wedding feast.[1] It is the king who has prepared this banquet and now he invites the guests, “Come to the feast” (v. 4).

The age of the Messiah has come among us. Though we have not yet experienced its fullness in this life, it is here. The royal wedding feast has begun, and it is an occasion of great joy. “To enter the Kingdom is as joyous a thing as to go to a banquet.”[2]

Since the Kingdom of God has begun, we do not need to wait to the next life to experience it. The Lord has already given us a foretaste of the “juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines”[3] in the Word of God and the Eucharist. From these two tables, God serves us each and every time we gather to celebrate Mass.

The Mass then should never be seen as an obligation, but a joyous event that we are privileged to have been invited. It is the King Himself who prepares the banquet and invites us to the wedding feast of His Son. That is why we celebrate.

[1] Meier, John P. Matthew. New Testament Message, Volume 3. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1980; p. 247.

[2] Barclay, William. And Jesus Said: A Handbook on the Parables of Jesus. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970; p. 152.

[3] Isaiah 25: 6 – First Reading for this Sunday.

October 4, 2008


27th Sunday – A

Matthew 21: 33 – 43

The Kingdom of God given to a people that will produce its fruit

It must be really nice to be the tenants in this parable. They have it made. The landowner does not just lease them the land and they would have to do all the work. Instead, it is the landowner who plants the vineyard. He then puts a hedge around it to protect it. Next, he digs a wine press. And he even builds a tower as a place for the guards to keep watch over the vineyard as well as a place of refuge in bad weather. Such is God’s care for his vineyard, which as we learn from the first reading from Isaiah 5:1 – 7 is Israel of the first covenant and the New Israel of the new covenant.

This New Israel is the Kingdom of God, and it is now entrusted to us. God does not just hand it to us uncultivated. God gives to us a vineyard ready to bear fruits. So much does God trust us.

The Kingdom is in our hands, unworthy as they are. The corner of the Kingdom entrusted to us could be our families, our circle of friends, our neighborhood, and our church community? Will we do our best to cooperate with God and make sure the vineyard produces fruits?