September 13, 2020

O. T. XXV (September 20, 2020 Sunday)

O. T. XXV [A] (Sept 20) Sunday (Eight-minute homily in one page) 

Introduction: Readings challenge our narrow and selfish  sense of justice in contrast to  the extravagant grace of our merciful and forgiving God.1) Created us with free will.2) Blessed us with health, & talents 3) redeemed us thru His Son 4) pardons us our sins 5) Helps us to grow in holiness by His grace.

Anecdotes: Gospel parable is against our sense of fairness and justice. 1) Adults cannot appreciate the last-minute conversions of the good thief, sinners becoming saints like St. Augustine and St. Margaret of Cortona. & employers giving undeserved promotions to some ignoring the more deserved. 2) Children call out “It is not fair” when brother’s pie is bigger, when a sibling cheats in a game, when teacher has favorites. 3) Experiments on Capuchin monkeys in Atlanta University and on dogs in Vienna.

Scripture lessons summarized: First reading: Isaiah to Babylonian exiles: God’s ways are different from our ways and thoughts.  They have to admit that  exile is God’s punishment for the sins of His Chosen People. But He is not angry, but merciful & forgiving and ready to pardon their infidelity because their God is more merciful than they are, and more forgiving.  Hence, Isaiah exhorts them, and us, to seek the Lord and to put aside evil ways that we may receive His mercy and forgiveness. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 145) reminds us that, although “the Lord is just in all His ways,” He is at the same time (and without contradiction),  “gracious and merciful.”

The  second reading expresses Paul’s total submission, to merciful God’s holy will regarding the continuation of his preaching life or his death. He is ready to accept God’s choice because God mercifully forgave his grave sins and chose him as an Apostle.

Gospel parable on God’s grace, mercy, compassion and unconditional forgiveness,  Strange recruiting from 6 am to 5 pm because of the concern for the grapes being destroyed by the expected rain. Strange rewarding of the same living wage because of the landowner’s concern for the welfare of the families. The parable also shows the mercy, compassion, and generosity of a gracious and forgiving God in allowing the later-called Gentiles as well the first-called Jews, His Chosen People, to enjoy the same eternal bliss of His Heavenly Kingdom

Life messages: (1) We need to follow God’s example and show loving generosity to our neighbor.  i)By thanking God when  someone else is more successful than we are, assuming  that our neighbor needs it.  When someone who does wrong fails to get caught, remembering the many times we have done wrong and got off free. ii) By  showing generosity to others by spending our time, talents, health and wealth for them.

(2) We need to express our gratitude to God in our daily lives for His mercy, grace and forgiveness. 1) By spending time with Him in prayer. 2) By getting reconciled to Him every night. 3) By avoiding sins and occasions that lead us to sin. 4) by receiving spiritual nourishment from Him  through the Bible and the Eucharist.5) by showing the same mercy and compassion to others by our humble service and sacrificial help.

OT XXV [A] (Sept 20) Is 55:6-9; Phil 1:20c-24, 27a; Mt 20:1-16a

Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: “That’s not fair!” How many times, in the course of a given day, have you heard someone protest, “That’s not fair!” Children on a playground shout when they detect a foul play: “That’s not fair!” Siblings doing household chores may complain, “I’m doing more work!” or “My chores are more difficult; that’s not fair!” Students at school may resent the extra attention given to a classmate… “She’s the teacher’s favorite; that’s not fair!” A brother thinks his piece of pie is smaller than his sister’s — “That’s not fair!” Someone at work receives a raise in salary when another person thinks he/she is more deserving: “I have seniority. I’ve been here longer; that’s not fair!” The coach of the Little League baseball team always puts her child in as starting pitcher; other players are annoyed… “That’s not fair!” Taxpayers bristle at the fact that increasing numbers of people are applying for and receive welfare from the government… “I have to work hard to make a living for me and my family. So should everyone else… that’s not fair!” In each of these several examples, human sensibilities regarding fairness and patience have been offended, precisely because of the fact that they are human. Most of us think that good work, seniority and experience should be rewarded, that all should be subject to the same rules, like “First come, first served,” that everyone should be treated impartially and that there should be no exceptions and no favorites! Therefore, when confronted with a situation such as that put before us in today’s Gospel parable of identical wages for different numbers of hours of work, our sense of fairness in provoked. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez). — This is probably one of the most controversial parables ever uttered by Jesus Christ, creating heated debate about the unusual generosity of a benevolent vineyard owner. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

# 2: Fairness of deathbed conversions: Conversions at the point of death have a long history. The first recorded deathbed conversion appears in the Gospel of Luke where the good thief, crucified beside Jesus, expresses belief in Christ. Jesus accepts his conversion, saying “Today you shall be with me in Paradise.” Perhaps the most momentous conversion in Western history was that of Constantine I, Roman Emperor, later proclaimed a Christian Saint. While his belief in Christianity occurred long before his death, it was only in 337 on his deathbed that he was baptized. A famous literary genius who entered the Church at the final moment was Oscar Wilde. He had written plays like The Importance of Being Ernest and novels, such as The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde lived a notorious lifestyle. He did things that scandalized, even repulsed, his contemporaries. What most do not know, however, is that at the end of life he converted to Catholicism! On his deathbed, Oscar Wilde asked for and received baptism and anointing of the sick from Fr. Cuthbert Dunne. But he was unable to receive the Eucharist. As in today’s parable, he entered the vineyard – the Church – at the last hour. While Wilde’s conversion may have come as a surprise, he had long maintained an interest in the Catholic Church, having met with Pope Pius IX in 1877. He described the Roman Catholic Church as “for saints and sinners alone – for respectable people, the Anglican Church will do.” Some might consider this type of eleventh hour, deathbed conversion unfair. They might feel like the workers who started working early and received equal wage with the late comers. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deathbed_conversion ) (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

# 3: “Size up the salary.” If you want to get people upset very quickly in today’s world, all you have to do is begin talking about salaries. We often play the game of comparing our salary to someone else’s salary. It is called “size up the salary.” When we play that game, we usually compare our wages with a person who is making more money than we are. They are making more money, and they seem to have less skill and education. Then we become upset, but we usually don’t say anything, just simmer inside. That is the way we normally play the “size up the salary” game. I believe the origins of the women’s movement was initiated by unequal salaries for equal work. Women simply wanted equal pay for equal work. Money, salaries, equal pay for equal work, affirmative action: these words cause all kinds of tensions within us. It is with this tense and conflicted mood that we approach Jesus’ parable for today. Today’s Gospel presents a group of farm workers playing that game and judging the generosity of the land-owner unjust and unfair. (Sermons from Seattle). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

Introduction: Today’s readings are all about the human sense of justice contrasted with the extravagant grace of a merciful and compassionate God. God rewards us, not in the measure of what we do, but according to our need and His good will. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah reminds the exiles in Babylon that their God is more merciful than they are, and more forgiving.  He is ready to pardon the infidelity which has resulted in their exile. Their merciful God will bless them with material and spiritual blessings. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 145) reminds us that, although “the Lord is just in all his ways,” He is at the same time “gracious and merciful.” In the second reading, Paul offers himself as an example of total submission, aided by God’s grace, to His will. Paul is ready to live continuing his mission, or to die and join the Lord, whichever is God’s will. There is Gospel or Good News in today’s Gospel parable. Today’s Gospel tells us that it’s never too late for God. A full wage is offered to each of us, whether one has served Him for a whole lifetime, or has turned to Him only at the eleventh hour. This story of the landlord’s love and generosity represents God’s love and generosity to us. The story shows us how God looks at us, sees our needs, and meets those needs. The question in God’s mind is not, “How much do these people deserve?” but, “How can I help them? How can I save them before they perish?” It is all about grace and blessings. God’s provisions for our spiritual lives will never run out, and when we share our blessings with others, we tap into the inexhaustible Divine supply

First reading (Is 55:6-9) explained: The prophet Isaiah reminds his people that if they really look at the circumstances of their lives, they will recognize God’s hand in them. Chapters 40-55 of Isaiah record prophecies spoken about the end of the Babylonian captivity of the people of Judah, when they would return from enslavement to a devastated homeland.  The words were meant to give them Hope and to keep them from losing Faith in God.  The whole of Chapter 55 promises both material and spiritual relief.  Isaiah reminds the people that it was their years of ignoring their Covenant with God which had brought their world crashing down around them, leaving their cities destroyed, their Temple razed, their wealth pillaged, and their hopes dashed.  But because of God’s great love and mercy, His chosen people were to be forgiven.  They would return home, their land would be restored to them, and their relationship with God would be reestablished.

Isaiah reminds us that the God of Moses and of the prophets doesn’t think in the same way that we do.  God is more merciful than we are and more forgiving.  As the Lord God says, through Isaiah “’My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord.”  Perhaps we would have a better world if we were to adopt some of God’s ways instead of asking questions like, “Why should the innocent suffer?” or “Why should cruel tyrants live and prosper?” or “Why should there be world-wide medical scourges like the Covid-19 pandemic?” Our Faith teaches us that, as a loving Father, God does and permits only that which is for our greater good.  God is always near to us in this life, and if we remain near to Him on this earth, we can trust in His love and goodness to keep us near Him forever in Heaven.

The second reading (Philippians 1:20-24,27) explained: St. Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians either from a prison cell in Rome (AD 61-63), or possibly from Ephesus (AD 56). Paul was a latecomer in God’s vineyard, preaching the Gospel. But he worked with zeal and interest to spread God’s News of Redemption and Salvation for all. Philippi was a very privileged city of Macedonia and the site of the first Christian church in Europe. Although far from Rome, it was given the status of a Roman city. Its people didn’t have to pay taxes to Rome and the people dressed as Romans and spoke the language of Rome. But Paul had told them that once they became followers of Jesus, their true citizenship was not in Rome, but in Heaven. Their ways were not to be Roman ways, but the way of the Gospel. The Philippians had received the Gospel from Paul eagerly, and they supported him on his further missionary travels. So, he was very grateful, and his epistle gives them mature Pauline thought for a mature community, expressed in unusually personal terms.

Today’s passage is most intimate, indicating another difference between God’s perspective and ours. Paul is trying to decide whether to prefer death (if he was in prison, he possibly faced execution), or life.  In this reading, Paul speaks as one who has put on the mind of Christ.  He says that he does not know whether he prefers to live or to die.  The ordinary human point of view is one that greatly prefers life to death.  But the perspective of God is different.  Paul says that to die would be good because it would bring him into greater unity with Christ.  On the other hand, to live would also be good because it would allow Paul to continue his work as an apostle.  Having taken on the perspective of God, Paul is equally ready to live or die.  Paul is an example of how grace operates.  His own wishes are subordinated to the needs of the Philippians, and both Paul and the Philippians enjoy the privilege of believing in Christ and of suffering for him.  Being a Christian means accepting God’s word without explanation or justification.  That is how “we conduct ourselves worthy of the Gospel of Christ.”

Gospel exegesis: The parable in today’s Gospel is known as “the Parable of Workers in the Vineyard” or “the Parable of the Generous Landlord.” Biblical scholar Daniel Harrington calls this “The Parable of the Good Employer” because the parable was probably addressed to Jesus’ opponents who criticized him for preaching the Good News of the Kingdom to tax collectors and sinners. This remarkable and rather startling parable is found only in Matthew. It reminds us that although God owes us nothing, He gives abundantly what each person really needs.

The parable in a nutshell: The Kingdom of Heaven, says Jesus, is like landowner who goes out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. He rounds up a group at 6 AM, agrees to pay them the usual daily wage and then puts them into action. At nine AM, he rounds up another group. At noon, he recruits a third team, and then at three o’clock, a fourth. Finally, at 5 PM, he finds still more laborers who are willing and able to work. He sends them into the vineyard to do what they can before sundown. As the day ends, the landowner instructs his manager to pay one denarius each, the daily living wage, to all the workers, beginning with those who started at five in the afternoon.

(A) Aim of the parable: 1) To give a warning to the disciples: Jesus teaches his disciples not to claim any special honor or any special place because they are closely associated with him or because they are the first members of his Church. All the people, no matter when they come, are equally precious to God. Similarly, long-time Church members should expect no special preference over recent members. (2) To give a definite warning to the Jews. As the chosen People of God, the Jews looked down upon the Gentiles. Jesus warns them that the Gentiles who put their Faith in God will have the same reward a good Jew may expect. Through this parable, Jesus intends to show the generosity of God in opening the doors of the Heavenly Kingdom to the repentant Gentiles and sinners on equal footing with the Jews. Matthew, by retelling this parable, may well desire to give the same warning to the members of his Judeo-Christian community who considered the converted Gentiles as second-class Christians. (3) To give Jesus’ own explanation of His love for the publicans and sinners. Through this parable, Jesus describes, and reflects in his life, the loving concern, generosity, and mercy of God his Father for all His children.

(B) Why this strange type of recruiting? The grapes ripened towards the end of September. It was the monsoon time of heavy rains. If the harvest were not finished before the rains started, the crop would be ruined. Hence, the vineyard owners recruited everyone willing to work, from the marketplace. The fact that some of them stood around until even 5 PM proves how desperately they wanted to support their families. One denarius or a drachma was the normal day’s wage for a working man for his work from 6 AM to 6 PM.

(C) The seemingly unjust remuneration for work: This story illustrates the difference between God’s perspective and ours.  Perhaps it disturbs our sense of fairness and justice. We think of equal rights for all, or an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Our sense of justice seems to favor the laborers who worked all day and expected a wage greater than that given to the latecomers.  Perhaps most people would sympathize with the workers who had worked longer and seemingly deserved more.  We can understand their complaint since, for most of us, salaries are linked to the number of hours of work. A skilled worker gets more than an unskilled worker. If workers have the same skills, the same hours of work and similar responsibilities, we expect them to get the same wages.

But God does not see matters in the same way that we do.  God thinks of justice in terms of people’s dignity and their right to a decent life. In other words, God’s perspective is that of the owner, who gave some of the laborers more than they earned.  God’s justice holds that the people who have come late have the same right to a living wage and decent life as those who have worked all day and, hence, all must be treated identically. We are laborers who have worked less than a full day.  If God treated us justly, none of us would be rewarded.  We have all been unfaithful to God in many ways; what we have earned from God is punishment.  However, because God is generous rather than just, we all receive a full day’s pay, even though we have not earned it. Jesus understood the value of all people, regardless of what the community thought of them.  He gave all people equal value.  Hence, our challenge is to recognize and accept with gratitude God’s Amazing Grace.   We must remember that there is more to life than the logic of action and reward.  There is the generosity of Life, that is, of the Trinitarian God, Who has made us His co-workers on this Earth of His.

(D) The parable’s teaching on the grace of God.

This parable of the vineyard-workers illustrates very well our theology of grace and mercy. Pope Francis says: “The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.” The parable suggests that we can’t work our way into Heaven, because by our own unaided strength we can never do enough natural good in this life to “earn” our everlasting reward, and because without His grace, we can do nothing of spiritual value. That is why God expects us to cooperate with His grace for doing good and avoiding evil. Salvation comes to us by God’s grace and our cooperation with it, that is, by a blend of Faith and works. We are saved by receiving and using God’s gifts of Faith, Hope, and Charity. At the same time, we are all in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to His call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the Divine Nature and of eternal life (CCC #1996). In God’s Kingdom, we can be grateful that He chooses to be generous.  What we really deserve for our sins is death and eternal punishment. We learn also that in God’s service we have different tasks to perform, and no matter how menial the task,  we all get paid the same eternal reward.  In God’s eyes, we are all equal.  At the end of the day, we are all paid the right amount.  In the Church, we are all co-workers, and, hence, we all receive exactly what is right from a God Who is notoriously generous and lavish.

The paradox of grace: What really bothers us in the parable is God’s equal rewarding of latecomers and newcomers. We are tempted to ask the question “Is it fair that we, the hard-working Christians, are going to be treated like these workers?  Is the man who lives a life of sin but who converts on his deathbed going to get the same reward that we receive?  Surely we must warrant at least a higher ranking in heaven on a cloud with the Apostle Paul or Moses or one of the saints!”  But the parable tells us that our Heavenly reward is not something we can “earn” because it is a free gift from God Who has made His rewards available to all who choose to receive His Gift of Faith in Christ Jesus.  Is it fair that God offers and gives his grace to all?  Fair is the wrong word.  God does not deal with us “fairly” and it is a good thing — we should be thankful God does not give us what we deserve!  The word we are looking for is grace.  The question should be “What is grace?”  And the answer is, it is that “undeserved love” that God has shown us through the death and Resurrection of His only Son Jesus Christ. Robert Browning reminds us, “All service ranks the same with God: With God, whose puppets, best and worst, are we; there is no last or first.” It is not the amount of service given, but the love with which it is given that matters. Those who carry out the will of God with love and humility will be acceptable before the Lord. So, Jesus says, “The first will be the last and the last will be the first.”

Life messagess: (1) We need to follow God’s example and show grace to our neighbor.  When someone else is more successful than we are, let us assume that person needs it.  When someone who does wrong fails to get caught, let us remember the many times we have done wrong and gotten off free. We must not wish pain on people for the sake of fairness, nor rejoice in their miseries when God allows them to suffer.   We become envious of others because of our lack of generosity of heart.  Envy should have no place in our lives.  We cannot control, and dare not pass judgment on, the way God blesses others, only rejoice that He does so, just as He blesses us.

(2) We need to express our gratitude to God in our daily lives. God personally calls each of us to our own ministry and shows us His care by giving us His grace and eternal salvation. To God, we are more than just numbers on a payroll.  Our call to God’s vineyard is a free gift from Him for which we can never be sufficiently thankful. All our talents and blessings are freely given by God. Hence, we should express our gratitude to God by avoiding sins, by rendering loving service to others, by sharing our blessings with the needy, and by constant prayer, listening and talking to God at all times.

3) We need to practice generosity: We can be generous in the way we give someone encouragement and a kind word when that person is feeling down, even though that person might not be one of our best buddies. We can be generous in the way we give of our time to help someone going through a rough patch. When someone says something that offends us, we can be generous in our reaction, sympathize and understand, rather than give back the hostility or injury just as it was given to us. When we have fallen out with someone or believe we have been unfairly treated, we can be generous in our willingness to reach out, make amends and restore friendships. When someone really annoys us and gets under our skin, we can be generous with our patience and kindness, dealing with that person in a way that reflects the generous nature of God. When we see people who lack the bare necessities needed for a happy and healthy life, we need to be generous with what we have been given by our generous God.

JOKES OF THE WEEK

1)     1) “All I want is my fair share.” In the classic “Charlie Brown Christmas Special,” Sally is writing a letter to Santa Claus and in the process, generates an enormous list of toys she wants. Then at the conclusion of her North Pole-bound missive she writes, “But if that is too much to carry, just send cash.” When Charlie Brown sees this and despairs over his own sister’s greed, Sally indignantly responds, “All I want is my fair share. All I want is what I have coming to me!”

2) Gratitude for the grace of two teeth: It was Thanksgiving season in the nursing home.  The small resident population was gathered about their humble Thanksgiving table, and the director asked each in turn to express one thing for which they were thankful.  Thanks were expressed for a home in which to stay, families, etc.  One little old lady when her turn came said, ’I thank the Lord for two perfectly good teeth, one in my upper jaw and one in my lower jaw that match so that I can chew my food.’

3)”We thank you Lord that all days are not like today.” Several mission parishes in North Dakota were being served by a holy old pastor.  The people were always amazed, for no matter what the circumstances, he could always find something to give thanks for. As he made his rounds one cold December morning, he was late getting to Holy Mass because of excessive snowdrifts.  As he began the Mass, the parishioners were eager to hear what the old priest could come up with to be thankful for on this dismal and frigid morning.  “Gracious Lord,” his prayer began, “we thank you that all days are not like today.”

4) “ARE YOU ENVIOUS BECAUSE I AM GENEROUS?” There was a guy who died and was being given a tour of heaven, and he saw a friend of his drive by in a beautiful Mercedes. He said, “Boy, this is great! “Oh, yes,” St. Peter said, “your friend was really generous on earth; we had a lot to work with. Your transportation up here depends on your generosity down there.” Then St. Peter gave him his transportation: a Honda motor scooter. He said, “Wait a minute, he gets a Mercedes, and I get a scooter? “That’s right, it’s all we had to work with.” So the guy drove off in a huff. A week later Peter saw this guy all smiles and said, “You feeling better now?” The guy said, “Yea, I have ever since I saw my preacher go by on a skateboard! “A life of generosity reflects God’s nature in a special way. Surely, God is just; but He is also outrageously generous and merciful at the same time. We do not get what we deserve. Rather God gives us more than we deserve. Today, He calls each one of us to be a generous people.

Websites of the week: YouTube videos on the parable

  1. Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066
  2. https://youtu.be/mUBf5rRSyO0 3) https://youtu.be/RxdZ7yKxQGM
  3. https://youtu.be/tJznj1a8I1w (This song says, “I’m available to you…” And it reminds us that the owner of the vineyard still seeks souls to enter His vineyard. He wants to use your voice to say to someone: “You, too, go into my vineyard!”)

32 Additional anecdotes

1) Henry Ford & James Couzens. When Henry Ford started his car company in 1903, he took a business partner, James Couzens. Couzens was strong where Ford was weakest — administration, finance, sales, etc. Couzens contributed as much to the success of the Ford motor company as did Ford. Many of the best-known policies and practices of the Ford Motor company for which Henry Ford is often given credit were Couzens’ ideas. So effective did Couzens become that Ford grew increasingly jealous of him and forced him out in 1917 in an argument over the future of the Model T. Couzens said the car was obsolete and that they should move on to other things. Ford disagreed, got rid of Couzens, and kept making Model Ts until he had nearly run his car company into the ground. — What happens, even to bright successful people, to cause them to hurt their own careers rather than share the glory with someone else? We call it pride, envy or ego. Today’s Gospel tells us how the early recruits to the vineyard became jealous of the living wage given to the later recruits. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

2) No more sermons on smoking, drinking and gambling: A young priest with a lot of zeal began his pastoral life as the associate pastor at a parish in the hills of Kentucky. On the first Sunday, he preached on the evils of smoking.  After Mass, some of the parish leaders met him at the door:  “We’re a little surprised that you would deal with the subject of smoking because nearly half of the state of Kentucky raises tobacco.  You might want to think twice about talking about tobacco in our Church.” The priest thanked them for enlightening him.  The next Sunday he came back and preached with additional fervor against liquor and its evils.  The same group met him at the door after the Holy Mass.  They said: “We think we need to tell you that you ought to be careful about preaching against alcoholic beverages, especially since nearly a third of our county distills whiskey.”  “I didn’t know that,” the young priest replied.  “Thank you for helping me.”  The next Sunday he preached a stirring sermon on gambling, especially on horse races. The same group met him after the Mass: “We think we need to tell you that over half of our county raises thoroughbred racehorses, so you want to be real careful about talking about gambling from the pulpit.”  Being a quick learner, the next Sunday, based on the gospel text of Peter’s attempt to walk on water, the young priest preached against the evils of scuba diving in international waters! Obviously, this young priest took the easy way out by compromising with evil.  But this is not what we, as Christians, are called to do, as Jesus demonstrates in the parable of the workers in the vineyard in today’s Gospel.  He tells the Jews that, although they are the first-comers in God’s vineyard as God’s chosen race, the latecomers, like his Gentile disciples, are going to inherit the same kingdom of God, which they had thought was “reserved” for themselves.  The result of this parable was to turn their lives upside down.  Ultimately, this is why Jesus was crucified…. because he said things that made people uncomfortable about their own compromising with evil. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

3) His own house to accommodate sex offenders: A former tough-on-crime Pennsylvania lawmaker has adopted a new and unpopular cause, taking into his home three sex offenders who couldn’t find a place to live – a stand that has angered neighbors, drawn pickets and touched off a zoning dispute. As cities across the nation pass ever-tighter laws to keep out people convicted of sex crimes, Tom Armstrong said he is drawing on his religious belief in forgiveness and sheltering the three men until he can open a halfway house for sex offenders Nearly 100 Pennsylvania municipalities have ordinances restricting where sex offenders may live. The ordinances generally bar them from moving in next to schools, playgrounds or other places where children might gather. In early June, Armstrong quietly allowed a rapist and two other sex offenders who had served prison time to move into his 15-room century-old home 75 miles west of Philadelphia after another town blocked his plans for another halfway house … A Republican, Armstrong served 12 years in the Legislature before he was defeated in a primary in 2002. He was known for taking conservative positions on abortion, taxes and crime but also for his role in later years supporting prisoners’ rights. Over the past two decades, he also took in homeless veterans, and more recently he has been a mentor to ex-cons. This story, written by Marc Levy and published in Fresno Bee (August 17, 2008, p. A3), gives us a glimpse of how a stance of generosity and compassion can generate resistance and resentment among those who feel that such benevolence is unwarranted. Today’s strange parable of a landowner who hired laborers at five different times during the course of one day to work in his vineyard, but paid the identical living wage for a full day’s work to all of them, tells us that our God shows such generosity. (Lectio Divina) (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

4) Thief Dismas & St. Peter on the same street in Heaven: There is a story about Simon Peter and Dismas, the repentant thief on the cross. Simon Peter, the big disciple, and Dismas, the thief on the cross, both died and went up to Heaven. They both knocked on the door, and they both got into Heaven. But, up in Heaven, Simon Peter discovered that he lived on the same street with Dismas, the thief on the cross. Peter was not pleased with this situation. Well, one day, God came walking by and Peter decided to ask God about it. He said, “You know God, Dismas and I are living on the same street here in Heaven and we have similar houses. I want you to know that I left everything for you. I left my fishing nets for you, my occupation, my boat, my nets. I left my good wife. I left my children. I gave up all these and I followed you my whole adult life and I was crucified upside down at the end of my life in Rome. Dismas here, he wasn’t a Christian for even fifteen minutes. And here we are: on the same street in Heaven. I don’t get it.” God said, “Come on, Peter get off it. Your fishing nets were filled with holes. You fishing boat was falling apart and not really safe. You know very well your kids were rebellious teenagers that you were trying to get away from. Besides, your wife was quite a nag and you wanted to get out of the house and away from her nagging. And you were crucified by the Roman government because they wanted to kill you. So don’t give me this ‘holier than thou’ stuff Peter, because I know you better than that. I knew your heart then and now.” Yes, both Peter and Dismas received grace as a gift, undeserved, unearned, and they received their gift as a surprise. Today’s Gospel gives us the message that eternal salvation is a gift from God in response to our grateful cooperation in the Divine plan. (Rev Ed Markquart). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

5) “Would you pray for me?” A man named Charles was lying in a hospital bed near death. The nursing staff, the man’s wife and a couple of children all testified that Charles was not a very nice man. He drank too much, he was verbally abusive to his wife and he had alienated his children. He did, however, ask for a Chaplain. The staff filled the Chaplain in on Charles and the kind of person he was. The Chaplain went in to the room to visit Charles who asked him to pray. The conversation went something like this. “Would you pray for me?” Charles asked. “What do you want to say to God?” The Chaplain asked. “Tell God that I am sorry for the way my life has turned out. Tell him that I am sorry for the way I treated my wife and family and that I’ve always really loved her.” “That’s it?” “No. Tell God that I know I have no right to ask this — but, I would like to be able to live with him. “The Chaplain prayed Charles’ prayer for him. He came back the next morning to inquire about Charles’ condition. He had passed away during the night. Now what do you suppose? Did Charles receive the grace of God? And if he did, did he receive as much of God’s love and grace as you and I have after all these years of service? Here’s what Jesus’ parable about equal wages is trying to say. God is always available to anyone who reaches out whenever they reach out. God’s timing is such that any time is the right time! (Rev. John Jewell). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

6) Don’t win lotteries! There have been enough lottery winners in America now to have a few studies of winners done. A report on the TV News Magazine 20/20 told the story of how families — especially extended families — had more conflict after a lottery windfall that they did before the winnings came. (The lottery is a kind of twisted Robin Hood that robs from the poor to make someone rich!) When someone wins the lottery, the family and friends are happy for them — in the beginning. Soon, however there is a resentment that sneaks into the picture. Brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and second cousins once removed — move from being happy for the newly wealthy relatives to feeling that they are somehow owed a “share” of the take. One couple in a Chicago suburb won a few million dollars in the lottery. They wanted to continue living in their same neighborhood and keep their same friends. Things were okay at first, but eventually their neighbors grew more distant. “People who used to invite us over seemed to call less. Finally the phone stopped ringing,” the wife said. Today’s Gospel tells us that we are basically jealous even towards God when He chooses to lavish His grace on others. (Rev. John Jewell). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

7) Size up the salary game: Do you have any idea what garbage haulers are making today? The people who pick up the garbage from our homes, do you realize what they are earning each day? Those county workers who are standing out there in circles on the street, do you know what they are making per hour? Have you seen what electricians are making per hour nowadays? A whole bunch of people want to be making as much as those garbage collectors, those country workers, and those electricians. … And those professional athletes? Their salaries are ridiculous. So are the salaries of our television entertainers, and those CEOs who are making so much money today—and all of that contributes to make our economy a shambles. If you want to get people upset very quickly in today’s world, all you have to do is begin talking about salaries. We often play the game of comparing our salary to someone else’s salary. It is called “size up our salary.” When we play that game, we usually compare our wages with a person who is making more money than we are. They are making more money, and they seem to have less skill and education. Then we become upset, but we usually don’t say anything, just simmer inside. That is the way we normally play the “size up the salary” game. Today’s Gospel gives us a different type of salary game played by God. (Rev Ed Markquart). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

8) President John F. Kennedy’s murderer: People who feel unaccepted and unacceptable are the cause of most of the world’s great tragedies. Take the case of Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald was a chronic loser. Even the Communists didn’t want him. He had failed at everything he had ever attempted. He was plagued with a feeling of sexual inadequacy. He had a lowly job. He had a lovely wife, but she was constantly putting him down. And in the same country there was a president — rich, youthful, charming, handsome, with a beautiful wife – and he was head of the most powerful country in the world. John F. Kennedy was everything Lee Harvey Oswald was not. And so Oswald bought a cheap Italian rifle by mail order for $12.95, a scope, for $4.00, and some ammunition. Then he positioned himself in a school supplies building in Dallas, Texas, and waited. Was the killing of Kennedy political or was it personal? Was it the result of a foreign conspiracy or was it the work of a tortured man who had tremendous fears about his own self-worth? Today’s Gospel tells us about a group of such jealous workers. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

9) You can’t build up “brownie points” with God. Some of you women, when you were young girls, undoubtedly belonged to an organization known as Brownies. This is the youngest segment of the Girl Scout organization–from ages seven to nine. Like the other members of this organization dedicated to fostering good citizenship and service, as a Brownie you earned “points” when you attained certain levels of achievement or performed various services. You may have accumulated enough points to translate these points into awards. So influential has the Brownie organization been that the concept of “Brownie Points” has been transferred to general usage in our language. Earning brownie points has come to mean earning credit for doing the right thing in a wide range of endeavors. For example, we might say of someone, “she earned a few brownie points with her boss.” [Christine Ammer, Seeing Red or Tickled Pink (A Dutton Book, 1992).] It means she did something to win her boss’ favor. And that’s great! We all need our boss’ favor. But here is the message of today’s Gospel: you can’t build up brownie points with God. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

10) “You gave beautiful colors to the peacock and a lovely song to the nightingale.” A sparrow complained to Mother Nature, “You gave beautiful colors to the peacock and a lovely song to the nightingale, but I am plain and unnoticed. Why was I made to suffer?” “You were not made to suffer,” stated Mother Nature. “You suffer because you make the same foolish mistake as human beings. You compare yourself with others. Be yourself, for in that there is no comparison and no pain.” [Vernon Howard, Inspire Yourself (Grants Pass, OR: Four Star Books, Inc., 1975).] That’s easy to say, isn’t it, but hard to implement. Comedian Dennis Miller puts it this way: “Remember how good you felt when your neighbor’s house got struck by lightning because he got the new satellite dish?” (Ranting Again, New York: Doubleday, 1998.) (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

11) “The Fair Labor and Practice Act.” In 1938 the United States Congress passed a law called “The Fair Labor and Practice Act.” That law affects millions and tens of millions of lives to this very day because it established for the first time in our history a minimum wage. Believe it or not, it was set at 25 cents an hour. I can remember working when I was in high school in a Five & Dime Store for $1 an hour. The only reason he paid me that much was because he had to; he would tell me many times I was not worth that. That law was really based on two principles: First, everyone must make a minimum wage; second, there should be some semblance of equal pay for equal work. Well, believe it or not, Jesus in today’s Gospel parable tells a story in an interesting and strange way relating to both of those principles. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

12) Story of Maya Angelou’s Aunt Tee: “If I could just have a nicer car, or a nicer house, or a European vacation like the Joneses have, then I would be happy!” That is an illusion. If you doubt that, you need only consider the story of Maya Angelou’s Aunt Tee, a woman who worked 30 years as a maid and 30 years as a live-in housekeeper. On Saturdays, when she lived with a rich white couple in Bel-Air, she would cook pigs’ feet, greens and fried chicken, then invite some of her friends over for the evening. The chauffeur and the other housekeeper and her husband would come to eat, drink, dance, laugh and play cards. One night, during the middle of a bid whist game, the rich white couple knocked on their housekeeper’s door. They apologized for disturbing her, then got right to the point. Every Saturday night, they heard the joy and laughter coming from their housekeeper’s quarters, and they wanted to be part of it. Would she please leave her door ajar, they asked, so they could not only hear the joy, but see it, experience it, feel it? This was the warmth and happiness that their 14-room house, three cars, swimming pool and who knows how much money could never buy them. In her book, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now, Maya Angelou paints the scene like this: “I draw the picture of the wealthy couple standing in a darkened hallway, peering into a lighted room where Black servants were lifting their voices in merriment and comradery, and I realize that living well is an art which can be developed,” she writes. “Of course, you will need the basic talents to build upon: They are a love of life and ability to take great pleasure from small offerings, an assurance that the world owes you nothing and that every gift is exactly that, a gift.” (Cited in “Value Judgements,” by Laura B. Randolph, Ebony, May 1996, p. 22.) Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he concluded his parable by saying, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

13) “All men are created equal.” Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address has been called America’s “greatest gathering of words.” Lincoln’s message was given over 130 years ago on the Civil War battlefield in Pennsylvania named Gettysburg. The burial of the Union dead was still underway on November 19, 1863, when Lincoln delivered his speech. We should not forget that it was a cemetery that the president had been invited to dedicate that day. What makes the Gettysburg Address the greatest speech in American history is the way in which Lincoln gave firm definition to that famous proposition written by Thomas Jefferson in the American Constitution, that “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
The power of President Lincoln’s speech is carried out in those five simple words — that all people are created equal. Now, we know, of course, that from the perspective of human judgment, people are certainly not created equal. We know that there are differences among us in personality, in intelligence, in natural talents, in bodily appearance and in physical strength and ability. We also know that some people are born, as they say, with a “silver spoon in their mouth.” These are the ones, of course, who are born with the advantages of wealth and privilege and family connections which open doors and make life comfortable and pleasant and enjoyable. No, the hard, cold truth is that we are not created with equal circumstances. But the point of the phrase, “all men are created equal,” is that this is indeed how God sees and loves, forever, all the men, women and children – every single human person — He has created, as His own, unique. individual child. God’s love is not withheld from any person, regardless of his or her circumstances. And we, as Christian people, are called to love each other with agape love just as our Father loves us. That is what our Father in Heaven calls us to do, and our obedience to Him is seen in the ways in which we treat all other human beings. In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus tells a parable which reveals a truth of God that is very disturbing to the conventional, human way of seeing the world. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

14) Life is a gift. I have a friend who faced sudden surgery several years ago. He didn’t have time to prepare emotionally for the surgery. He went to the doctor who sent him directly to the hospital and, in hours, he had open-heart surgery. This man was grateful for his surgery, his successful life, the extra years that had been given to him. But he also said that he was sad that he had not been able to express his love to his children before that critical moment of surgery. He had wanted to tell his children, but he didn’t. There wasn’t time. Months passed; years passed; a decade passed. One day, he was at his doctor’s office only to discover that he needed surgery again. Only, this time, he had two days to prepare. He had each child, now all adults, come into his hospital room and talk privately with him. He wanted each to know that he felt this past ten years of life were extra years that had been given to him by God. Not only the past ten years, but his whole life had been a gift of God, and they, his children, had been a total gift of God. He wanted them to know that God had given him his children, his wife, his family, his work, his faith in Christ, that God had given him an abundant life and that God would give him eternal life as well. He wanted his kids to know how he felt. He had wanted to tell his children these things ten years ago, and now he had a second chance to do it. And so, he told them, each of them, one by one. It was very emotional, and his wife left the room because she could not handle it. This man expressed what God wants. Deep down inside, all people have this attitude that life is a gift. Life itself, the abundant life, eternal life – it is all a gift. It is not that God owes us anything. That is what Jesus explains through the parable about equal wages. (Rev. Ed Markquart). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

15) We are of infinite worth just as we are. There was a thrilling story in our newspapers about a year ago. Rebel troops in the country of Colombia often finance their war against the government by kidnapping prominent citizens and holding them for ransom. There were 1,800 reported kidnapping cases in Colombia in 1997. Ed Leonard was one of those 1,800. Ed’s company, Terramundo Drilling of Ontario, Canada, had been drilling sites in Colombia when Ed was taken hostage by a group of armed rebels. For 105 days, Ed was held in various camps in the Andes Mountains. Then, on October 6, 1998, Ed Leonard came home. How did he gain his release? Someone had offered to take his place. That someone was Ed’s boss, Norbert Reinhart. Reinhart is the owner of Terramundo Drilling. When all other efforts failed to free Ed Leonard, Norbert Reinhart offered himself as a hostage in Ed’s place. (“Trading Places” by William Plummer and Lyndon Stambler, People, Nov. 30, 1998, pp. 196-198.) Reinhart himself was held hostage somewhere in the Andes Mountains until his release earlier this year. If you were Ed Leonard, wouldn’t you feel that you must be worth something to your company, if your boss would trade his life for your own? You know where I am leading, don’t you? You and I don’t have to prove our worth to our neighbors, to our family, to anybody in this world. The Boss has traded his life for ours. That is an idea too deep for us to ever comprehend, but if it says nothing else to us, it should say this: We are of infinite worth just as we are. That is why the landlord gave identical wages to all his workers in today’s Gospel parable. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

16) Ten dollars or ten days in jail: James N. McCutcheon tells a wonderful story about the sense of justice of Fiorello LaGuardia, based on God’s mercy and generosity as expressed in today’s Gospel.  LaGuardia was Mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and during all of World War II.  Devoted New Yorkers called him “the Little Flower” because i) that is the English meaning of his Italian first name; ii) he was only five-foot-four; and iii) he always wore a carnation in his lapel.  He was a colorful character who used to ride the New York City fire trucks, raid speakeasies with the police department, and take entire orphanages to baseball games. Whenever the New York newspapers were on strike, he used to go on radio and read the Sunday “funnies” to the kids. One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city.  LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread.  She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her grandchildren were starving — but the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges.  “It’s a bad neighborhood, your Honor,” the man told the mayor.  “She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.”  LaGuardia sighed.  He turned to the woman and said, “I’ve got to punish you…The law makes no exceptions – ten dollars or ten days in jail.”  But even as he pronounced the sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket.  He extracted a bill and tossed it into his familiar hat, saying, “Here’s the ten-dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore, I’m going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat.  Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.” The following day, the New York City newspapers reported that forty-seven dollars and fifty cents was turned over to the old woman who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren.  We wonder if that could happen today!  Our Scripture for this Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time is about the surprising nature of God’s grace, which many prefer to call “amazing grace.” (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

17) Who ever said life was fair? A million-dollar golf tournament was held which drew contestants from near and far. Many experienced golfers who had worked for years and years on their game came for their shot at the jackpot. The winner would be the closest to the pin. Golfer after golfer tried for the hole, and one skilled veteran made it within six inches. Not too shabby. Then he watched as a certain hacker came to the tee and swung the most horrible looking swing had ever seen. But luck was with this amateur. His ball bounced off a nearby photographers’ cart and landed just one inch from the hole. He won the contest. He won the money. Who ever said life was fair? There’s an old farmer’s saying about people who just stumble into good luck without working hard – “The dumber the farmer, the bigger the spuds”. It’s another way of saying, life is not fair. (preachrblog.blogspot.com). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

18) A movie on labor problems: The 1954 movie On the Waterfront is considered a classic in filmmaking. It features Marlon Brando as longshoreman Terry Malloy, who gets locked in a brutal battle with the ruthless labour boss Johnny Friendly, played by Lee J. Cobb. The issue is the rights of the dockworkers. Not only are the longshoremen being exploited by the ship owners, but they are also being shaken down by their own union leaders. With the help of Fr. Barry (played by Karl Malden) and Edie Doyle (played by Eva Marie Saint) Terry Malloy undergoes a transformation after his brother is murdered by Johnny Friendly’s goons. From being a tough and uncaring street fighter, he becomes a crusader for his fellow workers and testifies for them to the Crime Commission against their corrupt labor bosses. Today’s Gospel also deals with a labor problem. At first it appears that the parable is setting up a model for management and labor relationships. Such is not the case. The parable by our Lord is more about the generosity of God than about working conditions. The story is more about the supreme goodness of God than about wage settlements. The punch line in the parable is the statement at the end: “I intend to give this man who was hired last the same pay. I am free to do as I please with my money, am I not? Or are you envious because I am generous?” In his book The Parables of Jesus, Joachim Jeremias says that today’s Gospel portrays the behavior of a large-hearted man who is compassionate and full of sympathy for the poor. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

19) The Little Flower and the criminal: Thérèse of Lisieux tells about a criminal being executed who stubbornly rejected all offers of spiritual help from the prison chaplain. She was concerned about him, and she decided she would pray to God, asking Him to a change the heart of this man before he died. An extraordinary thing happened that had a profound effect on her understanding of God’s love and mercy. Just before he was blindfolded, and placed beneath the guillotine, he snatched the crucifix from the chaplain’s hands, and kissed it reverently. He continued to clutch it, as he was put into position, and the blade fell. It is never too late for God. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

20) “With all your money, you give me a Bible?”: A young man was getting ready to graduate from college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealer’s showroom and, as his father could well afford it, he told him that this was what he wanted. As Graduation Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the morning of his graduation, his father called him into his private study. His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son and told him how much he loved him. He handed his son a beautifully wrapped gift box. Curious, but somewhat disappointed, the young man opened the box, and found a lovely leather-bound Bible, with the young man’s name embossed in gold. Angrily, he raised his voice to his father, and said, “With all your money, you give me a Bible?” as he stormed out of the room, leaving the Bible behind. Many years passed, and the young man was successful in business. He had a beautiful home, and a wonderful family, but he realized his father was old, and he should call to see him. He had not seen him since that Graduation Day. Before he could make arrangements, he got a telegram, telling him his father had passed away, and willed all his possessions to his son, He needed to come home immediately and take care of things. When he arrived in his father’s house a sense of sadness and regret filled his heart, He began to search through his father’s papers when he saw the new Bible, just as he had left it years ago. With tears, he opened the Bible and began to leaf through it. His father had carefully underlined a verse, Matthew 7:11, “And you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give to those who ask him?” As he read these words, a car key dropped from the back of the Bible. It had a tag with the dealer’s name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had so desired. On the tag was the date of his graduation, and the words paid in full. I am so grateful that it’s never too late for God (Biblical IE). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

21) Mother Teresa’s Efficiency Strategy: What makes the saints so remarkable is that they are brilliant reflections of God’s extraordinary generosity. St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) was an eloquent example of this. When she visited the many convents that she had founded, even though she was the Superior General of the Order, she had a habit of getting up early on the last day of her visit (early being 4:00am or so), and washing the convent’s bathrooms before the rest of the nuns woke up. Fr Sebastian Vahakala, a priest connected to her Order, explains how he learned Christian generosity from her: “One day I was working at the home for the dying in Kalighat, Calcutta. “The Corporation Ambulance brought in a man. I looked at him and recognized him straightaway, as he had been to our home several times. “So, I told Blessed Teresa that there was no sense in taking him in again, as he would go out when he might feel a little better [he was taking advantage of their generosity]. “Blessed Teresa looked at me and said: ‘Brother Sebastian, does this man need your help now or not? It does not matter that he was here yesterday or not, or that he is going to come back again tomorrow. We do not have yesterday anymore, nor do we have tomorrow yet; all that we have is today to love God and serve the poor.'” That’s just a little glimpse of the kind of supernatural generosity that continuously overflows from God’s heart, towards each and every one of us. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
22) St Thomas Aquinas’ Reward: It is this focus on God’s glory that has given all the saints such remarkable energy and courage. St. Thomas Aquinas was given perhaps the greatest intellect the world has ever known. A member of the first generation of Dominican friars, he lived in the 1200s and died in his 40s. He was so far above his peers in philosophical and theological knowledge and understanding that he was given the title “Angelic Doctor.” During his short life, he produced an entire library of works defending and explaining the Catholic Faith – a library which remains to this day the pillar of Catholic theology. His mind was so remarkable that he could write five books at the same time. He would sit at a table with five secretaries and dictate a paragraph to one of them. While one secretary wrote down that paragraph, he would dictate another paragraph of another book to another secretary – keeping all five scribbling for hours. Soon before he died, he was praying in a chapel, kneeling beneath a large wooden crucifix. The sacristan heard a strange noise and peeked into the chapel. He saw our Lord appear to the saint and say to him: “You have written well of me Thomas; what reward would you have?” To which the Angelic Doctor replied, “Nothing but yourself, Lord.” That was the secret to his incredible output, to the total development of his natural and supernatural potential: he was doing everything not for his own glory, but just for Christ. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

23) Late bloomers: There are many people who have gained greatness though they have embarked on their careers at various stages in their lives. A late bloomer is a person whose talents or capabilities are not visible to others until later than usual. Many writers have published their first major work late in life. Mary Wesley (British novelist) might be a classic example. She wrote two children’s books in her late fifties, and her writing career did not gain note until her first novel Jumping the Queue at 70. Doerr published her first novel when she was 74. Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first novel in when she was in her sixties. In philosophy, Mary Midgley wrote her first book when she was 56. Bill Traylor started drawing at age 83. Another painter, Alfred Wallis, began painting in his 60s. The champion “late bloomer,” however, has to be “Grandma Moses”! Born in 1860, Anna Mary Robertson Moses, the American folk artist began painting seriously at the age of 78 (1938) and continued until her death at 101, in 1961. — In the history of salvation, too, we see the chosen people were called at different stages in their lives. Samuel was called, when he was a young boy. David was called in his youth. The sons of Zebedee were young men when they received the invitation to join Jesus. Joan of Arc was young maiden when she was entrusted with a great mission. But the first of the Patriarchs, Abraham, was seventy-five years old when he was called by the Lord God to leave Haran the land of his kin, and go “to a land I will show you” — and he obeyed at once, starting Salvation History proper for all of us with that choice. Simon Peter was an older man when he was chosen by Jesus. Saint Ambrose was called in his 40s. From today’s reading of the Gospel of Matthew, we learn that God does not call everybody at the same time. Some are called early in life as the early laborers were called, having received their Baptism as infants. Some were called as teenagers. Some were called during their married life and others, much later in life. And some are like the laborers who were called around five o’clock; their conversion took place at the last hour, like the thief on the cross. (Fr. Bobby Jose). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

24) Generosity of a lottery winner: Allen and Violet Large, a loving elderly couple from Nova Scotia, Canada, won $11.2 million in the lottery. But instead of living happily ever after in luxury, they decided to give their winnings away. Being content with their average, peaceful lifestyle, they decided that the money would bring them unnecessary stress. They helped their family with some of the money and then divided the rest of the money between churches, organizations fighting cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, cemeteries, hospitals, also their local fire department. Their neighbors found difficult to understand them. They could never imagine such an act of generous giving. But the couple was not disturbed; were they not free to use their own gifts as they wanted? Today’s parable teaches us about the generosity of God. (Fr. Bobby Jose). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

25) “We waited for you!” According to an ancient legend, Christ assembled the eleven apostles in Heaven and asked them to celebrate the Last Supper with him. They readily agreed. On their arrival, Jesus welcomed them and asked them to take their seats. They were surprised to find that he had set thirteen seats. Even though everything was ready he refused to start. He waited and waited until finally Judas came in. On seeing him, Christ rose from his seat and went to meet him. He kissed him and said, “We have waited for you.” The story may sound far-fetched. But does it do anything more than echo that other story we find in the Gospel of Luke — the story of how, as he hung on the cross, Jesus prayed for his executioners? By word and example Jesus shows us how to be generous with others. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

26) Amazing Grace The man who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace had been a slave trader and had taken part in the most inhuman and cruel treatment of people. He called himself a wretch who deserved nothing but contempt and punishment but instead found himself pardoned and raised to a position of trust and responsibility. How else could he describe it except as Amazing Grace? Many people seem to feel poor always, because they never give themselves to the cause of God, whereas, people like John Calvin felt that his life was always rich because his one purpose in life was to serve the Lord. Therefore, when the physician told him that he must cease from working so much or he would die because he had a complication of a painful disease, he replied, “Would you have my Master come and find me loitering?” No servant of God can get tired of serving the Lord. He may be tired in the service, but never tired of it. (Vima Dasan in His Word Lives; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

27) Five aces for God: In her wonderful collection of poetry called, The Awful Rowing Toward God, Anne Sexton examines her life like someone in a rowboat rowing against the stream of life, encountering hazards along the way, and finally docking at the island of God’s home. The concluding poem in the book is called “The Rowing Endeth.” In it she sees herself called by God’s great laughter to join Him for a game of poker. When the cards are dealt, she is surprised and thrilled. She has a royal straight flush. She will trounce God and win for herself whatever prizes God has brought to the table. In great excitement, she slaps down her cards, claiming her winnings. Nothing can beat this hand! But God only laughs, a great, rolling, joyful exuberance that energizes everything around. In rich good humor, with no malice at all, God throws down his cards. Five aces! That’s impossible! But there it is. And when Anne loses to God, she knows that really she wins. For God is not stingy with his wealth or his earnings. There are never any losers when they sit at table with God. God’s laughter is always without malice or one-upmanship. This is the Gospel according to Jesus’ parable. In spite of our good fortunes or savvy playing skills or sheer hard work, we never really win at the game of life when we play it by our own rules. But if God is bending them in the direction of grace, something wonderful always happens. (Wayne Brouwer, Political Religion, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.) (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

28) “Monkeys and dogs want to see justice done.”: It seems that even monkeys, if they could read, would get indignant about this parable of the workers in the vineyard. In the Australian newspaper, The Melbourne Age, there was an intriguing report from the University of Atlanta in the U. S. called: “Monkeys want to see justice done.” At the University of Atlanta, researchers have been testing capuchin monkeys. They gave them the task of picking up a small granite stone and bringing it to the researcher within one minute. If they were successful, they were rewarded with the wage of a slice of cucumber. The scheme worked well. It was happy lab situation as long as each monkey received the same wage. This turned sour when the researchers varied the pattern. They tried giving one monkey a grape for its reward. Indignation broke out. First the others withheld their labor, and later they even took to throwing away the cucumber and the granite stone. It had offended their sense of justice. Dogs are also prone to bouts of envy and refuse to play if they are not treated fairly, scientists have found. Experiments led by Friederike Range at the University of Vienna tested how pairs of dogs reacted when each was given a different reward – either a piece of bread, some sausage, or nothing – in return for offering a paw to researchers. In one of the tests the first dog was given a piece of bread as a reward, while the second received nothing. When the test was repeated a number of times, the dog that went without quickly began to display what appeared to be envy and stopped cooperating with researchers. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2008/dec/08/dogs-envy-fairness-social-behaviour). That’s almost human, isn’t it? We are happy with our lot until we see someone in a similar situation who is better off. Then we cry foul! We want to go on strike and demand an end to such monkey business. (Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com. Adapted from a sermon by Bruce Prewer). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

29) Generosity Is the Secret to Our Joy: There is an old rabbinic parable about a farmer that had two sons. As soon as they were old enough to walk, he took them to the fields, and he taught them everything that he knew about growing crops and raising animals. When he got too old to work, the two boys took over the chores of the farm and when the father died, they had found their working together so meaningful that they decided to keep their partnership. So each brother contributed what he could and during every harvest season, they would divide equally what they had corporately produced. Across the years the elder brother never married, stayed an old bachelor. The younger brother did marry and had eight wonderful children. Some years later when they were having a wonderful harvest, the old bachelor brother thought to himself one night, “My brother has ten mouths to feed. I only have one. He really needs more of his harvest than I do, but I know he is much too fair to renegotiate. I know what I’ll do. In the dead of the night when he is already asleep, I’ll take some of what I have put in my barn and I’ll slip it over into his barn to help him feed his children. At the very time he was thinking down that line, the younger brother was thinking to himself, “God has given me these wonderful children. My brother has not been so fortunate. He really needs more of this harvest for his old age than I do, but I know him. He’s much too fair. He’ll never renegotiate. I know what I’ll do. In the dead of the night when he’s asleep, I’ll take some of what I’ve put in my barn and slip it over into his barn.” And so one night when the moon was full, as you may have already anticipated, those two brothers came face to face, each on a mission of generosity. The old rabbi said that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, yet a gentle rain began to fall. You know what it was? God weeping for joy because two of his children had gotten the point. Two of his children had come to realize that generosity is the deepest characteristic of the holy and, because we are made in God’s image, our being generous is the secret to our joy as well. Life is not fair, thank God! It’s not fair because it’s rooted in grace. (John Claypool, Life Isn’t Fair, Thank God!). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

30) “Thank you, my Lord, for what you’ve done for us today!” There’s a play by Timothy Thompson based on this parable in which he depicts two brothers vying for work. John is strong and capable; Philip is just as willing but has lost a hand in an accident. When the landowner comes, John is taken in the first wave of workers, and as he labors in the field, he looks up the lane for some sign of Philip. Other workers are brought to the field, but Philip is not among them. John is grateful to have the work but feels empty knowing that Philip is just as needful as he. Finally, the last group of workers arrive, and Philip is among them. John is relieved to know that Philip will get to work at least one hour. But, as the drama unfolds, and those who came last get paid a full days’ wages, John rejoices, knowing that Philip – his brother – will have the money necessary to feed his family. When it comes his turn to stand before the landowner and receive his pay, instead of complaining as the others, John throws out his hand and says with tears in his eyes, “Thank you, my Lord, for what you’ve done for us today!” God’s justice arises out of a sense of community in which we see the “eleventh hour” workers as our brothers and sisters whose needs are every bit as important as our own. (Philip W. McLarty, “The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.”). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

31) The Worker’s Pledge: Washington Gladden, a pioneer for social justice, realized that changing outward conditions will not bring about a better society unless men’s attitude toward their work is also changed. So, he wrote what he called “The Worker’s Pledge” in which he said: “I will not be a sponge or parasite. I will give an honest equivalent for what I get. I want no man’s money for which I have not rendered a full return. I want no wages that I have not earned. If I work for any man or any company or any institution, I will render a full, ample, generous service. If I work for the city or the state or the nation, I will give my best thought, my best effort, my most conscientious and efficient endeavor. If I can give a little more than I get every time, in that shall be my happiness. The great commonwealth of human society shall not be a loser through me.” This is the spirit that has built our country, and when that spirit declines, America is on the decline. There is no substitute for hard, honest, conscientious work under God. (T.A. Kantonen, Good News for All Seasons, CSS Publishing Co., Inc). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

32) Graciousness of God’s mercy and his forgiving love: After many years of general prison ministry, in 1998 I was asked to begin ministry cell-to-cell on Florida’s death row and solitary confinement. Florida has the third largest death row in the U.S., with over 370 men and has over 2,000 men in long-term solitary confinement in the two prisons at which I serve as a Catholic lay chaplain. On behalf of the Catholic Church, the bishops of Florida, and under the pastoral supervision of my priest and bishop, I go cell-to-cell in ministry to the men inside. Also, I serve as a spiritual advisor for executions. The family of the condemned is not allowed to be present then. My wife ministers to the families during the execution. We also make ourselves available to minister together to the families of murder victims. We do these things as volunteers on behalf of our Church. We support our family and ourselves through our separate work. Although I can bring Communion to the Catholics, our priests and bishop come frequently in order to offer the sacrament of confession, the anointing of the sick and, in case of executions, the last rites. For those who are only just coming into the Church, Baptism and Confirmation are also made available. In eight years, my wife and I have god-parented or sponsored ten death row inmates into the Church. When I am on death row, there are ten steel barred doors, a quarter mile of electrified fences and razor wire, and a mountain of steel and concrete between me and the front door of the prison. The death house, which houses the execution chamber and to which a man is moved when his death warrant is signed by the governor, is at the end of the hall. His cell in the death house is less than twenty feet from the execution room. One with eyes only for this world might ask: Of what use are the Sacraments to a man in such a fix? And, in particular, what is the point of confession in his predicament?

I can testify to you that the power of the Sacrament of confession and of the Holy Spirit is greater than the darkness of death now, even of the death house. There was a man who desired to become a Catholic because of the influence of Pope John Paul II. After a year of preparation for entry into the Catholic Church, he was suddenly scheduled for execution. His execution date turned out to be just days after the death of John Paul II. Our Catholic governor even considered delaying the execution out of respect for the pontiff. The morning before his execution, the Bishop came to the death house to administer his first confession, his first Communion and his confirmation. This was done with him standing in a narrow cage called a holding cell, with shackles upon his ankles and chains on his wrists. When the bishop pronounced the words of absolution and then of confirmation, his whole body jerked as though he had been jolted by electricity. He even began to fall back against the rear of the cage, in a manner called resting in the spirit. The guards who were watching were astonished. They said that for a moment he became luminous. The next day, during his last hours in the death house, he told me that John Paul II had visited him during that moment and told him that Jesus would come for him at the moment of his death. Nothing anyone could say could dissuade him from this belief. A few hours before the execution, the warden came down to his cell with a message from the mother of the victim of the crime. She had asked the warden to inform the condemned man that she forgave him and bore him no ill will. The reconciliation offered by the sacrament of confession had been actualized on this side of the great divide between the temporal and the eternal. He died in peace, at one with God. {Lectio Divina. cf. Dale Recinella, “It Is Never Too Late” in 101 Inspirational Stories of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, ed. Patricia Proctor (Spokane: Franciscan Monastery of Saint Clare, 2006), p. 187-189.] (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 49 by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under CBCI or  Fr. Tony for my website version. (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website- http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604