33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

            The gospel readings for the last few Sundays before the end of the Church calendar are intended to keep alive the vigilance of expectation so that Christ doesn't find us indolent and unprepared, and the devil doesn't rob us of the treasures of heaven. These are Sundays when we are reminded that to have faith means to make fruitful the talents that have been placed in our hands: the parable of the wise virgins (last Sunday's gospel) and the parable of the final judgement (I was hungry, thirsty, naked … and you gave me something to eat, something to drink …. which will be next Sunday’s gospel reading), and today’s gospel reading (the parable of the talents). We consider these three Sunday readings as vital in our preparation for the final end. 

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             This Sunday’s parable provides us with a lot of lessons:  

 

a. The parable tells us something about how God deals with us, his disciples and servants. The parable speaks first of the Master's trust in his servants. While he goes away he leaves them with his money to use as they think best. While there were no strings attached, this was obviously a test to see if the Master's workers would be industrious and reliable in their use of the money entrusted to them. The master rewards those who are industrious and faithful and he punishes those who sit by idly and who do nothing with his money.

b. To squander them on triviality, indecency, sensuality and frivolous pursuits is something that we will answer for one day. Our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ is going to return. When He does, he will have us account for how we used or misused our gifts. How are we using our gifts? The gift of music; prophecy; healing; teaching; preaching;  love; servanthood, etc.?  Is it for His glory or for your own? When He comes back, He will seek an answer.

c. The parable of the talents shows that God abhors indifference and an attitude that says it's not worth trying. God honors those who use their talents and gifts for doing good. Those who are faithful with even a little are entrusted with more! But those who neglect or squander what God has entrusted to them will lose what they have.

d. The Lord entrusts the subjects of his kingdom with gifts and graces and he gives his subjects the freedom to use them as they think best. With each gift and talent, God gives sufficient means (grace and wisdom) for using them in a fitting way.  Here is an important lesson for us—no one can stand still, indifferent, unmoved for long in the Christian life. We either get more or we lose what we have. We either advance towards God or we slip back. Do you seek to serve God with the gifts, talents, and graces he has given to you?

e. The servant who buried the master's money was irresponsible. Unfortunately, sometimes we are like the third servant, the one who did not nurture his talent. We remain closed in our own comfort zones. We care too much about our peace of mind and of our routine, our own security. New challenges frighten us. Christ calls us to be his confident disciples that are not afraid of him and his challenges.

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            May the Lord help us to make good use of the gifts, talents, time, and resources He gave us for His glory and His kingdom.

Sunday 32nd Sunday In Ordinary Time A

            First, we take note of some important details: The oil in this parable is not just oil. It stands for the sum of good deeds each virgin has accumulated during her lifetime. And the wedding party is not just a wedding party. It is the parable’s way of describing the banquet of the blessed in heaven.

 

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             One obvious lesson is that each of us is accountable for our own conduct. Our task in life is to make sure that when the Lord comes to fetch us, we are well stocked with the oil of good deeds. After our death, there will be no second chance. The parable expresses this in 5 simple words: “Then the door was locked.” Jesus concludes his parable with the familiar truth: “You know neither the day nor the hour.”

 

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            Here we are reminded clearly that we can never be sure when that end will be. In another gospel passage, Jesus says: “as to the day and the hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, but only my father (Mt 24:36).

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            Wisdom consists not in knowing WHEN will our end be. The more important thing to ask is HOW are we using the present and WHAT do we hope to accomplish in the days and years that lie ahead.

 

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            Could we await the end with confidence, knowing that we have done all we could? Or would we rather feel that there was so much we have left undone, so many faults to atone for, so many omissions to make up for and we would crave for a little more time to put things right?

 

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            Our whole eternity depends on our decision to prepare for eternity. We cannot afford to gamble our eternal happiness by ignoring the word of Jesus as he admonishes us today—here and now—to prepare for the day of reckoning.

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“GIVE TO CAESAR WHAT IS CAESAR’S AND TO GOD WHAT IS GOD’S”

 

            “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s… and to God what is God’s.” This verse is most often quoted by some politicians, rulers and opinion makers as they accuse the Church of interfering in politics. When, for example, the Bishops’ Conference issues fearless statements against some abuses of the government, some politicians, rulers and even opinion makers often reply by quoting this passage. Did not the bible say to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s—meaning the whole sphere of civil, economic and social affairs. And to God what belongs to God—meaning the sphere of spiritual affairs? So don't meddle in politics!

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            The Pharisees who asked Jesus a question about taxes were interested in one thing: getting Jesus in trouble with the authorities. They wanted to trap Jesus. "Is it lawful to pay tax to the Romans or not?" If he said "yes," they could have declared him a collaborator and a Roman sympathizer. He would be a Jew telling people to be in the side of their oppressors. If he said "No," then they would have run to the Romans telling them that he was preaching sedition. Jesus resolved the question with a simple, but profound answer: "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."

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            Jesus saw their ploy, but instead of ignoring or humiliating them, he taught them a lesson. And that lesson is as valid today as it was twenty centuries ago: Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God. This leads us to reflect on how we carry out our responsibilities to our country and to our God.

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            Jesus’ answer to the entrapment of the Pharisees expresses a very profound principle, namely, that we are citizens of two worlds:

  • 1) the world we see (body and matter);
  • 2) the unseen world of the spirit… and we have duties to both worlds—to the state and to God.
  • - In so far as possible, be loyal to earthly governments, be responsible, participative and honest citizens.
  • - But when the government becomes corrupt; when it threatens the family and freedom; when it becomes the source of injustice and corruption; when it condones prostitution, gambling, drugs, violence, criminality, immorality… then we have the duty to correct the government. Not to condemn the government but to be part of the healing process. We could not simply remain silent and indifferent… we have to pronounce our stand on moral issues.

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            Over and above everything and everyone is the priority that should be given to GOD and the SOUL.

            God does not need our taxes. He does not need our votes either. But God deserves our SOUL…  for our souls were made for Him. And so our souls should never be given to any human institution.

            If the government, your job, your loyalty to a politician or any human relationships demand your soul, say NO. Your soul belongs to God alone. In the end, our earthly citizenship will end, while our heavenly citizenship will last forever.

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            Even if they crucify you for that answer, as did our Lord, you will never regret that choice. Jesus was a man of controversy. He argued with public authorities. He publicly badmouthed a king. He picked up a whip to expel greedy bankers from His Temple. He was concerned not merely with the souls of people but their bodies as well. He performed miracles to feed them when hungry and cure them when sick. 

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            When it comes to things that are God’s, there are no compromises.

Total and absolute loyalty and service is a debt that we owe to God and to God alone.

             That is how we can render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's.

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Readings: Is 25:6-10 / Ps 23:1-3, 3-4, 5.6 / Phil 4:12-14; 119-20/

Mt. 22:1-14

 

For the past three Sundays, we have been reading and reflecting on several parables about the kingdom. This Sunday another parable is presented to us as our point for reflection—the parable of the wedding banquet.

 

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The wedding banquet is symbolic of the heavenly banquet of God’s kingdom. The Lord has invited all nations to an eternal banquet. First he invited his chosen people Israel. But since they turned down the invitation, all people down the highway—meaning the pagans—were invited.

 

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The parable shows us 3 kinds of guests. There were the absentee guests who initially accepted the invitation, but when the time came to honor the invitation, they drew back. There were the guests without wedding garments, who attended the feast but did not take the trouble to prepare adequately for it, as the occasion deserves. And there were the guests with the wedding garments who made the necessary preparations to present themselves fit for the banquet.

 

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Everything was ready, but when the time came for the feast to begin, none of the invited guests were present. It’s not that those invited refused to come. They merely had more important things to do and would come later. The banquet was not high in their priority list. In their view, the king’s wedding banquet could wait a while; whereas, in the king’s view, this was a party that could not wait. In other words, Jesus is telling us that the kingdom of God is a matter of urgency and top priority; it demands our response here and now, and not at some other time and place. The banquet of God’s kingdom is ready, the invitations courtesy of Jesus are sent. The Lord is waiting for your answer, NOW!

 

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The scary thing about the absentee guests is that they were not sinners. They were not generally engaging in sinful activities. One went to his farm, another to his business. These are noble occupations. Sometimes what keep us away from the joy of the kingdom is not sin but our preoccupations with worldly affairs. To be serious with our job is a good thing, but when your job keeps you away from the banquet of God’s kingdom, job becomes a danger.

 

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People could be so busy setting up their own banquets where they are the hosts—not God. A lot of people believe that happiness can very well be found not so much at the banquet of God but in their own banquets. They forget that they are made for God and apart from God, the most lavish human banquet always has a taste of ashes.

 

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On the guests without wedding garments, the point of the parable is: the invitation is to all. The party is free for all. Yet, anyone who decides to attend has the responsibility to present himself/herself fit for the king’s company. Those of us on the way to the kingdom must acquire the moral and spiritual character consonant with life in the kingdom.

 

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The readings invite us once again to come to the Lord’s banquet. We are all welcome as his beloved guests. But at the same time the parable warns us to take God’s grace and invitation for granted but to clean ourselves up and become the most beautiful guest that we can be in God’s sight.

Remember that the Lord continues to send out invitations. Do come and be the most beautiful guest in His sight!

 

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