While the theme in today’s Bible readings is Finding and Living Mercy or Facing God’s Wrath… we shall save that particular look at Wisdom or the Matthew 18 for another time. I’d like to focus on >>>
JESUS, THE TEACHER OF LIFE.
Do you call Jesus your teacher? Is He your Teacher of Life?
This aspect of Christ’ life as teacher is appropriate to cover here on the week when we start out Religious Ed. classes here, and when those in Catholic school have been underway, a couple of weeks into religion classes already done. Our teaching ministries in the parish will start this month, too, and the focus is all on Jesus Christ, The Revelation of The Father Almighty. It’s always on Jesus, and He is our Teacher of Life.
There is just so very much for us to learn about our Lord Jesus Christ. We can keep on knowing Him, knowing Him and knowing Him without ever getting tired of Him. His whole nature, character, life, ministry and teachings are so richly captivating and so enriching, that there is nothing more satisfying to the soul than to know the Lord Jesus!
This was the testimony of all who knew Him when He lived on earth among men 2000 years ago. When Jesus came to Bethany, to the house of two sisters, Mary and Martha, Mary could spend hours just sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to Him. And when Martha got a little irritated that her sister was not helping her to serve Him, Jesus told her that Mary had ‘chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her.’ (Luke 10). The good part that she had chosen was to spend time knowing Jesus and learning from Him. We need to note that example– that Jesus wants to teach us, with us at the Master Feet.
Dearly fellow believers, how important it is that we know our Lord, our Beloved, and learn of Him and His Kingdom, and to learn of how we are an instrument to Him as His Church and as with each individual believer. We need to keep learning of these holy moments of encounter with Christ the Teacher, and to see our God Who’s come to meet us. Holy Moments was the title of our Christmas 2022 homilies and of the free book we gave out at Masses. We take blessed pause to see Jesus Alive, and to be inspired that He is among us. We need time to keep learning, whether by method of small ministry or group, parish programs, good Catholic internet sources, good books, the Bible, the Catechism, Lives of the Saints, and so much more. In prayer, we review our life, too—asking again for Jesus to be our Teacher of Life.
As like today’s gospel, He may teach us in surprise, as He was to Simon Peter, asking for 77 times of forgiveness actions rather than a limited 7. I recall being in a middle school Religious Ed. class with Mr. Marsh, and this gospel lesson of the year had much of an impact, of learning Who Christ was to me, and how I was to reflect Him in my heart and actions. Mr. Marsh gave us a 70 X 7 booklet to teach us more about our class lesson. I have never forgotten it. You learn lessons from sitting at the Feet of Jesus, or from those who have been there, who can pass along the truth to us.
Let’s go back to St. Martha. Maybe the greatest lesson to her was that the power and wisdom of God lay in Jesus. He was not just some holy man, He was The Sent One of God, the Messiah. She saw Him raise Lazarus from the dead. Yet even before this spectacular event, she was being taught by Our Lord and catching on to His message and His Way. Do recall the word exchange Martha has with Jesus, as He has come back to Bethany, meeting her in her grief, now four days after Lazarus died. Martha knows of the resurrection hope of the Last Day, as she replies to Jesus’ inquiry, ‘Do you think Lazarus is in good hands with Me?’ Martha answered, “I know he, my brother, will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” In that sentence, we see that Martha has learned much from her Master Jesus. So, Jesus turns the conversation to a deeper truth of what the New Covenant will bring to believers. He says to her: “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” That answer is one of the greatest answers to a question in history. It is the answer of a great student or disciple of the Teacher Jesus. He was so pleased with Martha.
We are talking about Jesus the Teacher…. As we are called Resurrection parish, I can’t help but point out with what Mary Magdalene called Jesus when she came into recognition of Him as risen from the dead. On that first Easter Morn, as catching on that she is seeing Jesus alive again, and Jesus calls her by name, “Mary!,” in the excitement she blurts out her nickname for Him: “Rabboni.” This is a more familiar address for her teacher, meaning as “my dear Rabbi” showing the close relationship she’s had in learning from Our Lord. “Rabboni” also still implies “Master,” as Jesus is to her, and she is His disciple—but she also happily sees the teaching ministry is to go on with her and Jesus. Jesus is Alive!
When we learn of Jesus, then we likely are inspired to go and tell the Good News. What does Mary Magdalene do with this holy moment and revelation that Jesus is Risen? She goes and tells! She goes to Peter and John and the apostles with the Good News. She is an original Good News teller.
You and I have the Good News, and in getting it, and becoming moved by Jesus’ Teachings and Revelation, it should urge us to go and spreading the news.
Jesus the Teacher comes to us with Kingdom of God among us, salvation, love, holiness. It is meant to be something we want to pass on to others, it being so vital.
It is no wonder then that those who have known Jesus would want others to know Him too. I give you a few examples of the Gospels. Andrew is a go-and-tell disciple. He and John were the first to see Jesus, when Jesus was starting out at the Jordan River with his cousin John the Baptist. When Andrew was introduced to Jesus by John the Baptist, and spent a day or more days with him, he immediately went home to spread the news of Jesus, as he returned to the Sea of Galilee to look for his brother Simon Peter, to tell him about Jesus. Jesus said He would be starting ministry up around the Galilean Sea, so Simon Peter was prepped in some Good News and expectation when Jesus came by. The story is in John chapter one. So also is the one about Philip doing the same thing for Nathanael, as he gets introduced after his fig tree nap. Go then a few chapters in John’s Gospel and you get the woman at the well of Samaria being taught by Jesus at the well, and her brief unplanned encounter with Jesus was enough to stir her up to action: She immediately went to tell all the people in the city to come and see Him. John 4. And when they came, and talked with Jesus they confirmed that what she had said about Him was true. They told the woman, ‘Now we believe, not just for your saying it, for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.’ So, Jesus had taught the people of Sychar, and in a day had converted the place, the place where He as Word of God had once visited Jacob—with the Jacob’s ladder story. Jesus stays on a couple of days with them, joined by His disciples, in a teaching session.
We are talking Jesus the Teacher in ministry, and how His message is designed to spread to others from His recipients.
We learn lessons about Jesus in these Bible accounts, or in the Catechism, but we also learn much from one another. I do many funeral and memorial services here, for instance, two this weekend, one Friday night and one Saturday morning. In them, I give some guidance for personal sharing in the Mass by family and friends, on the topic of the beloved person and of our Christian faith. Sometimes I have really learned something new by what these mourners will share. Recently I learned about the co-suffering Christ from a speaker, and it had me reflect more on that side of Jesus. I was impressed on how much trust the mourners have in God, enduring more suffering than I have ever had.
You might have been here for a conference we had with three speakers—held in the Amadeo Room in 2018. One of the speakers came to us from South Carolina, he was speaking on the level of 70 x 7 forgiveness He had to pour out. Jesus the Teacher spoke through Brian Pusateri who recounted that he was a clergy-abuse victim as a boy. He had dodged dealing with it, until a decade and a half ago—and up to then, God had helped him limp along but succeed in business and marriage, but the time to reckon with his past and being sinned against by a man in collar was now to be dealt with. He told us his story of going to his parish priest down there in Carolina, and praying the pastor was a good priest that could help and counsel him to healing. It came true, and Brian got to a place in his victimhood to give 70 x 7 forgiveness for those who had sinned versus him in this way. Anyway, Jesus the Teacher not only touched me deeply by that story, for another deeper level of my knowing today’s gospel of Matthew 18—but I began to correspond with Brian ever since and follow his blog and thank God for his example.
Jesus as Teacher will have startling things to reveal to us, about Himself. Remember this Gospel account, that even the officers who were sent by the chief priests and Pharisees to arrest Jesus, were so captivated when they heard Him teaching that they all returned to their masters empty-handed. When asked why they had failed to carry out such a simple order, they answered, ‘Never has a man spoken like this man.’ (That’s in Mark 11 )There was clearly something wonderful in the character and teaching of Jesus that reached out to the hearts and minds of men. Those who met Him and heard Him could not help but to be amazed at his teachings. Jesus was the Teacher of Life. There is no doubt at all that He is the Teacher above all Teachers!
Jesus remains as Teacher. He is Alive, and so is His Word, and His nourishment to our minds and hearts. We need to value it highly, and take take with the Master, and especially teach our children and youth to know and follow Him.
The Teacher Jesus uses His Church for many lessons to pass on; solid ones that have passed the test of time– 2000 years so. He uses His Bible instruction, Catechism, saints’ examples, life examples, and much more to teach us. We learn from Him, if we will but make it a priority. In Matthew 11 Jesus says: “Learn from Me, for I am humble and gentle of heart.” That bible verse has always got to me!
We have September upon us. After a Summer of ease, we gear back up in teaching ministries. I will try a Bible study again in both places—twice a month. We will bring in a speaker or two on Catholic topics to the parish. We have Religious Ed. starting up. We have RCIA ahead. I want to try a Bible and Beer session for men—every so many weeks apart. It’ll like Theology on Tap, if you have heard of it. But it’s my giving of a Bible lesson, taking questions, and then we have a beer (or soda) afterwards, socialize and finish. We have Formed as a Catholic internet library for you, and a women’s ministry begun. These are offerings to sit with the Lord Jesus, in the circle of others, and come to know Him more.
We are in Matthew’s Gospel all this Summer and I finish with a verse from Matthew 9:35 that shows how much Jesus wants to be Teacher to us. It says: ‘Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom. ‘ Yes. He was ready to teach at a moment’s notice, not only to crowds of 5,000 people, but also to individuals like Nicodemus, who came to consult Him at night. Jesus could teach people anywhere: At the Temple, in synagogues, in their homes, along the roads as He traveled, at the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and also on a mount – from which we have His famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’ of Matthew. Indeed– The whole world was His classroom!It still is. Jesus’ teachings lead us to becoming saved, and belonging to Him to God, and having a destiny of Heaven. It is a terrific ministry of His care to us.
25th Sunday “A” Ordinary Time Sept. 24 Homily Fr. Barry
The Gospel Parable Text for Today is at the bottom of this homily
Parables are stories with something catchy and purposefully slightly-off in them—Inviting you to remedy them.
In the most known parable of the seeds and soils, three of the four planted seeds end up not growing anything. But, as we know, seeds are meant to bring forth new life. That’s what gets your attention in that parable. What’s wrong with the three? You learn what’s wrong, from the parable, but it turns out not a gardening lesson so much as it is a human soul lesson. Jesus in the good soil, and we are the seed. We are to be immersed in Jesus Christ.
The parable begs the inquiry, then: Are we planted in what will have us grow to new life, or to wither in the world without Jesus? So the lesson is on looking at the ground for our seed being on rocky or shallow ground, or on the beaten path to be kicked around or picked off by birds, or amidst choking thorns. The examples are about life, not agriculture.
In Matthew 20, the parable of the workers is not really about working hours and promised pay or proper or due wages, either. The story is to launch a lesson on human life again. The workers are all paid the same amount, but some worked all day, some just from 5 o’clock to dusk. The morning workers were promised a denarius. They get it, but they see the late workers also got that same pay. So the first group, and noon group, are grumbling for more. They don’t like the gracious generosity of the landowner and his methods.
‘Lesson here? It’s not what one should pay the worker, though the Church has a lot to say on labor and wages today in social justice practices. This is about the complainants’ sins of the lack of respect and a lack of appreciation for what they got, as promised to them. It’s so popular to grumble against the boss, even if he or she be a good or great one. It’s ungratefulness here.
God as our Big Boss or Owner of Everything does provide for us dearly, but God probably has an large influx of complaints and criticism coming in hourly. Oh, God knows about this temptation of humanity, for He gave us two commandments from Moses on it. It’s those two at the bottom on that we are not to covet. The hook of the parable is for you to identify with the parable characters. ‘See it from God’s perspective in the landowner? He is engaged in many workers lives to get into the fields for a productive day, and He has fair wages. He does not promise a denarius to the latter arrivees to come to work, just that, they’ll get a just payment. You see Him getting many to work and being provided for. That’s good. You see Him as being quite generous to the late-in-the-day workers, but is being generous wrong? The idle who are hired and those beginning in the morn probably all needed the money, in the same kind of need. The landowner comes through. Plus, He has his land tilled or worked, as He’d like.
Jesus is saying that God is in this image. He gives to all. Equal in measure. Yes, some have it harder in His service, you might think, but they wanted the work.
Others God will still care for, and it might seem He’s lighter on them—but we don’t know the whole picture.
The context of the parable of Matthew 20 is the conversation of Peter with Jesus at the end of Matthew 19. It’s important to know. Peter wonders aloud to Jesus: Verse 27. What am I getting out of all of this? I have left much to follow after you. What’s in it for me? What then will be there for us apostles, who’ve worked so long and hard with you up to no?. This attitude of what the disciple deserves might be too selfish for Jesus to hear from Peter or any of them. Or for Jesus to hear from us. Or of these workers that want more pay, past what they agreed on.
Peter, you have Me, the Messiah, with you. I can promise you all things. I start with salvation for you, into this life you have in Gospel hope, with eternal life right into your soul, and a future in Glory with Me? That’s pretty good payment!
Jesus assures Peter and all of us, saying: For you workers in My Vineyard, The Fields of The Lord, “No one who has left home or family or belonging or worldly Opportunity will fail to receive many times over as much from Me in this age as into eternal life. “ Matthew 19:30. Then, next, right before the Parable of the Workers, Jesus tell them that He would make Himself “last” or “least” as to humbly die for sinners for to free them in an offer of forgiveness and be out of the captivity of sin and death. It will be fulfilled when I rise from the dead.”
Ok. Now we go to the Parable of the Workers.
Do you want to be the grumbling person that has worked since morning to now, as serving for the King of Kings, the Owner of It All?! But so many grumble and complain, and against truths of God as too hard or unfair. Unfair? God? That’s our ungrateful perspective. We are comparing to others, like the early all day workers on the late day workers— and that really is a sin of coveting others or of things. Commandments 9 & 10. Maybe Jesus is getting at a further reality. The Pharisees are opposing Jesus and His disciples so much. Is it that they are the grumbling workers, and they want “first place,” and don’t want to give God’s Christ first place. The first, the Pharisees, will fall to last, or maybe even drop out altogether. So says Jesus.
The Pharisees covet attention in such a prideful way, and here is Jesus giving more attention to the sick and poor than them. But who should be first to God?
Later, in Matthew’s Gospel, this parable means a lot in that it’s not just a salvation to the Jews Good News, but also equally to be given to the Gentiles, the late-comers to salvation. In Matthew 8, already the Centurion, a Gentile, is believing and reaping a reward in a miracle of his own heart and the miracle of a cured person in his home has happened, done long distance by Jesus’ command.
But the cry of “I decree that something’s unfair, God” is screaming out in this parable. It’s the moaning of “me, me, me”—“what about me? What’s in it for me? If you don’t already realize that Jesus is in your life, and in Him you have ultimately everything— than hopefully this parable sneaks up on you and enlightens you. Lots of trouble and complaints fly around these days in the Church, and it’s because it is still about human selfishness, pride, wanting it our way. We are in the trials of a me-first culture. God says that we got a lot backwards that way, to make a mess.
A not fair moment on Southwest Airlines. He was there at Gate A 17. He had the ticket saying Group A, Number 2 in his hand. He expected to be the second passenger for seating onto the 737 aircraft. He was lucky, for he used the Got-to-Get-Away fare for Houston, and he scored a $99 ticket, and he jumped all over an $35 upgrade to go to the front of the line, well, to be 2nd in line to the A-boarders. That meant—no wait. The choice of the whole plane of seating was his–after whatever Group A, 1 guy chose. Everyone else was of A, B, or C boarding after him, in that order. He was at the gate 17 early, happy to stand in the A line. He has the one big carry on, just barely the maximum size for overheard storage. He also had a big backpack on him, not really allowed as his small other carry on, but the Baltimore Southwest people seemed to let him on with such violations before. Why do it? He didn’t want to wait to check in it as the desk, nor wait later to get it at the baggage carousel downstairs—which gave him a jump on getting out of the airport and on his way, ahead of most other arrivals.
Before the announcement to start the A list boarding, some people just walked up to A-17 with the bags along. One of them, of the seven, was a person in wheelchair. The gate attended opened the ramp door, scanned their tickets—which did not look like his own ticket, and certainly did not say A Boarding on any of them. But they were waved through. He looked behind him and A 3 through A 30 were all behind him. He was incensed that this other group got on ahead of the special A Boarders.
“We are supposed to be first, he muttered to his fellow A people in line! Not fair!” When he got on or into the BWI to Houston Hobby passenger jet, he saw the “Daring 7” as he dubbed them to himself, as sitting right where he had wanted to Claim—in the front or second row of seats, and window or aisle ones. The overhead bins were full there, too. He had to go to row 3, so to have an overhead bin clear, and to have room under the seat for that backpack. He glared at the 7 people that had got in the jet before him, without A passes. He did the math—while he was an A2 ticket, he was the ninth passenger—he was going to make a stink about it. It just wasn’t fair that they were all there up front of him.
The flight boarded well, and it was a full flight. The flight attendant asked me: Are you ok? And, have you noticed that you are sitting on your seat belt? He replied: Have you noticed that I am an A2 ticket customer that did not get the front rows, rather these other walk-ons did? I paid an extra $35 to get those seats. I was boarded ninth. She said: Actually, as a A2 ticket, you were rightfully the second customer boarded, right after A1, and– He interrupted: I can count, mam. I was number 9. He had raised his voice very loudly in saying that. The passengers in those seats ahead of him heard him loud and clear.
She said: Please, no shouting on board the jet. He said: Then, no line jumping and cheating, either, on the jet—like them! (Pointing) The wheelchair person of those 7 (“the daring 7”) spoke up. I am Myra. The disabled may board first, as necessary. I can’t walk but a few feet with my cane, so I accepted the Southwest policy as my being a necessary pre-board.
The man got angrier. (Why was he so mad?) He addressed the other 6 of the group.
What about you all? Are you all disabled, as well? I saw you walk aboard.”
The flight attendant blurted: Sir, this is not good. Can I get you a 7 up or something? We are not departing for about 8 minutes, so I could get you one and some snacks— He interrupted: Well, there were 7 up let in front of me, but I had the A2 ticket. That’s what I am saying. I am not happy with how you treated me, in comparison with these walk ons. Now the whole front of the passenger jet was nervous and upset. What’s so bad with the 3rd row with this guy?! They must have thought
Now the resolution of our modern parable. The man in the front row aisle seat got up to join the conversation. He took to the microphone and PA system.
“Hello, Southwest Airlines, this is Bob Jordan speaking, I am up here in Row 1C, on our flight from Charm City here to Houston Hobby Airport, where I live. I am the president of Southwest Air. So welcome everyone, and dear sir in 3A, to my jet and company. We in the top administration do occasionally ride commercial to see how things are really going on, instead of our choosing the private corporate jet. We take a personal interest in things. To my left is Tammy Romo, our VP of Southwest. To my right in 1B is Eugene, our top pilot, but just going for the ride today, with us, as we will honor him at a Houston banquet tonight. Sherhon, our head of Shareholder Services is up here too, along with Karen, our top investor, and Kaine and Allie, our second and third top investors. The woman that came in the wheelchair is my wife, Anne. So, really, this jet and airlines is ours but we are pleased to serve you, the flier passengers of the skies. We’ll have a nice flight this late morning and early afternoon. Let me add—we “big shots” don’t always take the front seats in these ventures.
From our past flights in the back seats, or those last choice middle seats—we have a grasp of what you have told us to offer or to change on Southwest. Such as,bmore luggage bin space, for that one carry-on bag, more leg room, like for thosebsecond small items to slide under the seat easily. Or, in your case, Mr. 3A, to putbyour extra second full carry-on you lugged on—that huge back pack—under the seat.b As yourself, we allow for late joiners to the flight, as in Got to Get Away ticketers, to pay extra, but not a lot, as so to score perhaps an A entry place. We want you all happy, even Mr. 3A, so if you want to switch seats with me now to 1A, I am ready to do it. Then you’ll get to talk with Tammy, our CEO, on your flying recommendations. We just would like the grumbling to stop. You will be in Houston at 3:20 touchdown time, like all of us, if we can get calm and get going, sir.
The man in 3A said: My name is Harry, and I would like to stay here in this seat. I’ll check in my second big bag from now on. Hey, can I have that 7 up?
PARABLE OF THE WORKERS Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to
them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got
the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”