There are many different motives why we do the things we do or say the things we say. Our motives and words are elicited from joy, gratitude, love, hope, forgiveness and a host of other positive motives, as well as the negative ones that include anger, spite, disappointment, jealousy, and selfishness. In today’s Gospel, some Pharisees who are religious leaders at the time, pose a question to Jesus about which commandment of the law is the greatest. When God made covenant with the Jewish people on Mount Sinai, He said He would be their God and if they were to continue to be His people they would have to follow the Ten Commandments. With the Ten Commandments as a base the Jewish people enacted 613 laws. The reason God promised to be their God was that clear - He loved the Jewish people. Only because of His love and power were they freed from slavery in Egypt. God did not free them to enslave them to Himself, but to free them to experience His love and presence. That was seen not only as they were saved when the Red Sea parted and they escaped the Egyptian army, but also every day in their forty year journey to the Promised Land as they were given a daily portion of manna and birds to nourish and sustain their bodies on the journey—nourishment that made God’s love vivid and life-giving every day. The Commandments and laws were not to pay God back or keep Him happy, but a very clear way to express their love, gratitude, and commitment to Him as His people. When Jesus answers the Pharisees’ question about which law is the greatest, He does not pick a particular law. He says, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two Commandments.” Love is the underlying motive for all the Commandments and laws.READ MORE
There is an old saying, “You cannot avoid death and taxes!” We probably think far more about the taxes we pay than the death that will eventually come to end our life in this world. Today’s Gospel (Matthew 22:15-21) calls our attention to both death and taxes. Jesus says to those who try to trap him in His mission: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” While we are grateful for the gift of life and seek and find security, peace, and joy in this world, we know we are not going to be here forever. That does not mean we go through each day doing everything in our power to ignore the inevitable end of our lives here, but it does mean that we are destined and created for what is eternal.READ MORE
A week ago Thursday we had a meeting in our parish concerning the Opioid Epidemic here on Long Island. The information gave statistics showing how deaths from this evil have risen four fold since the year 2000. Approximately 8,000 people died in 2000 and in the past year more than 33,000 people have died. I have asked a man who was there and lost a son to drug addiction to write a column to give us all more information and point out what we can do (page 5). It is so sad to celebrate funerals for young people whose lives were erased.READ MORE
“You can’t have it both ways!” There are many things we wish for and make decisions about. The most important decisions put us on a path we cannot veer from if we are going to be faithful to them. When we do, we have conflicting thoughts and feelings and we can hurt others as well as ourselves in the process. Today’s Gospel presents a parable where greed and selfishness take precedence over gratitude and humility. A landowner plants a vineyard and sets everything up, even to the point of installing a wine press. Then he rents it out to tenants and expects a piece of the profits. When he sends representatives to collect what is justly his, they are beat up and some are even killed. Finally, he sends his son with the hope that the tenants will respect him. But they do not. The tenants see this as an opportunity to take the vineyard for themselves as they kill even the son. The parallel here is that that God’s chosen people were sent prophets again and again to call them back to faithfulness, to recognize that all they are and have are a result of God’s goodness to them. Finally, the Son of God, Jesus, came to give us the fullness of life and even He was rejected.READ MORE
How sad to see the destruction of the hurricanes in the Caribbean nations and our own country these past few weeks. How good it is to see our government and ourselves not only being concerned and praying for them, but contributing financially to help them rebuild. This coming Sunday, October 1st, we will have a second collection to assist those who have to put their lives, residences, and businesses back together.
Today’s Gospel challenges us to reflect on the destruction, chaos, and suffering our words can bring to others and ourselves. In this passage from Matthew 21:28-32, we see Jesus pose a question to the religious leaders gathered around him: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterward, he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.” At times we are like the first son and say how we feel and then rethink what has been asked and what we said and change our minds. It is always life-giving and puts us on the path to inner peace when we do what we know is right. But we are also like the second son at times as well. It is much “easier” at the spur of the moment to tell others what they want to hear rather start an argument or have hard feelings. But we know the result. At some point, our dishonesty and empty words will cause anger, hard feelings, or disappointment. In one of the resources, I use to help prepare my Sunday homilies the commentary for this Gospel passage used an example of empty words from the movie Mary Poppins. In a scene at the end of her first day as the new nanny, while she is putting children Jane and Michael to bed, Jane asks, “You will never leave us, will you? Her younger brother quickly joins in and says, “Will you stay if we promise to be good?” Mary smiles and replies, “That’s a piecrust promise. Easily made. Easily broken.”READ MORE