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"Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him (Matt. 21:31-32)."
The Optional Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, martyr; St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, martyrs
, is ordinarily celebrated today but is superseded by the Sunday liturgy. Click here for commentary on the readings in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
The first reading is taken from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel 18:25-28. A notion very prevalent among the Jews, all through their history, was that the sins of parents were punished in their children. Ezekiel tells his audience that each man is responsible for his own sins. As each man has a free will, the good man may foolishly turn to sin, and likewise the sinner may repent and live a good life.
The second reading
is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians 2:1-5. St. Paul is urging his new converts to live in unity of love and mutual charity. Each one must esteem his neighbor as of more importance than himself and help him in every way. In doing this, they are only imitating their Savior Christ Jesus who although Creator became a creature, though Master He made Himself a slave—all for love of us.
is from St. Matthew 21:28-32. This parable was primarily intended to show up the hypocrisy of the chief priests and elders of the Jews, and the perilous position in which they stood in relation to God and heaven. It is, however, a warning against hypocrisy for all time. Lip service of God will not merit heaven. Nominal Christians are not working in the Lord's vineyard. At any moment they may be called from this life, and what defense can they offer the just judge? Will they dare to offer the flimsy excuses with which they try to silence their consciences now: "we didn't realize how sinful we were"; "we were too occupied with family and personal cares to have time for our spiritual duties"; "we were led astray by bad example"; "we didn't like to be different from others"; "we were going to put things right"? Who will dare to offer such excuses at the judgment seat? Their utter futility will then be apparent in all its nakedness.
However, we are still on earth, and while we are the door of God's mercy is wide open to us. If in the past we said, "I will not go into your vineyard", we still have time to reverse that sinful decision. Not only can we with God's grace turn over a new leaf, but we can completely wipe out the sinful pages of our life's story written up to now. Remember that what God in His mercy did for the tax-collectors and harlots in the parable, the Matthews, the Mary Magdalenes, the Augustines, the Margarets of Cortona, the Matt Talbots and the millions of unknown penitents who are now saints in heaven He can also do for you.
We answered the call to God's vineyard by accepting baptism and membership of His Church. If we have grown lax in our fervor and refused to do the tasks allotted to us, we still have time, thanks to God's mercy and patience, to put things right. Today, look into your conscience and see how much of your past life you have given to God and how much you have kept for yourself. If you were called tonight to render an account to the Lord, would the balance sheet be in your favor? Is your corner of the vineyard producing abundant crops, or is it perhaps filling up with weeds, briers and brambles? If the latter, then we will say a heartfelt "Thank you, God, for not calling us to judgment today. We will begin right now to understand our sinful past, so that our corner of your vineyard will be in good order when you do call us. Thank you, Lord, for your mercy. God grant that we shall never abuse it."
Excerpted from The Sunday Readings
by Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.
Commentary on the Readings for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
"'For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (Gospel).
Jesus reveals His Love by curing the victim of dropsy
(pictured at the left). Love overcomes all human obstacles. The humble man does not, of course, expose his talents to the contempt of others. But he does recognize that every best gift is from above,
loaned not for himself alone, but for his less favored neighbor as well.For this reason I bend my knees to the Father
(Epistle), exclaims St. Paul, as he reflects on His glorious riches
: how Divine love PURGES us by strength through His Spirit,
ILLUMINATES us through
and then UNITES us in Christ's love. . .unto. . .the fullness of God.
Humbly must we recognize the power that is at work in us.
Excerpted from My Sunday Missal
, Confraternity of the Precious Blood