God's Shocking Generosity

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- Dr. David M. Thomas

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matt. 20:1-16a

Equal pay for equal work. That’s the way it should be, It’s a matter of justice. It’s a principle that is part of Catholic social teaching. Unfortunately, sometimes women receive less than men, immigrants less than citizens. Years ago, I came upon a print-out of the salaries of various professors at the school where I taught. I wished I had not seen it because I learned that some of my co-professors were receiving much more salary than I was. Some of them even taught fewer classes and students. A seeming matter of inequality became quite difficult for me to accept.

That’s why today’s gospel is often difficult to understand. Some workers labored all day in the landowner’s vineyard in the hot sun while some worked but an hour or so. And they all received the same wage. In other words, equal pay for unequal work. We wonder, “What’s going on?”

First, let’s admit that this is the least-liked parable in the gospels. Some might wonder why Jesus, who is usually in top form, communicates a parable that seems, on the surface, at least, ridiculous. Or unjust. If we focus only on it from the standpoint of the workers who worked the whole day or on simple economics, we would be at best confused, or worse, disturbed.

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What Forgiveness Means

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Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Mt 18: 21-35

If we sin, God is ready to forgive us again and again. He keeps to door open for us to return to him. His love has the power to help us change. In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ response to Peter’s question -- “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?” – is to call us to imitate the loving forgiveness of God and open the door to healing for the other person and for ourselves, too. Forgiveness can take a long time, maybe “seventy-seven times.” A heart hardened to others becomes its own prison. The anger and hatred we are holding onto will eat away at us in there. With patience and understanding, a person can earn our trust again. However, forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing, and it is prudence to understand the difference.

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Positive Peer Pressure

At Home with Our Faith - Gospel Reflections from a Family Perspective

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time Mt 18: 15-20 family group

Love has the power to change others when force or argument cannot. Members who were conflicted about how to act were likely to get some direction from a brother or sister about the right way to go. Even when a brother or sister or child is rebellious, Jesus doesn’t tell the Church family to give up on them. He says to “treat them as you would a Gentile or tax collector.” When we recall that many of Jesus’ closest friends and not a few apostles fell into those social categories, we will understand that everyone is deserving of a loving second chance.

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Job Description

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Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time -- Matthew 16: 21-27

Wanted: Disciple. Must be willing to deny himself or herself, take up a cross (sight unseen), and follow this Jesus. That may include any or all of the following: to be willing to put pet projects on hold, to think of others first, to stoop to do the meanest task, to not always get the gusto. Considerable swallowing of pride involved. This job may entail living on less so that another may have a decent lifestyle. It may mean embracing a wayward child, dirt and all.

This is a company-wide directive. As Pope Francis puts it, “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”

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God Waits for Us Patiently

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21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matt. 16:13-20

By David M. Thomas, Ph.D.

From time to time, CFM's blog will feature reflections on the Sunday Readings by Dr. David Thomas, veteran Catholic family life minister

Years ago, one of our sons asked me to drive him to a school dance. He wasn’t old enough to drive himself. “Just drop me off at the door, Dad, and don’t tell anyone that you’re my dad.”

I smiled. I know that parents can be an embarrassment. Or his friends might get the wrong idea about me. So the “drop off” went quickly and I remained in the shadows.

In today’s gospel Jesus says to his disciples, right after Peter had correctly identified him as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” that they should not tell anyone that he was the Christ. What’s going on? Did not Jesus, the Son of God, come to us so that we might know the true nature of God? He asked his disciples about their view of him and Peter had answered correctly. You would think that the next thing would be Jesus saying that they (the disciples, led by Peter) should now go to the ends of the earth telling everyone that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah sent by God. But instead he said, “Don’t tell anyone.” What’s going on?

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Persistence pays off

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Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 15: 21-28

The persistent Canaanite woman in the Gospel story proves the saying, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." Even though the disciples are annoyed by her, even though Jesus himself seems to ignore her, she won't be denied a hearing. Faith has blossomed in her, thanks to the presence and grace of Jesus. She says the crucial words: "Please, Lord!"  Her heartfelt prayer and humble declaration of faith seems to change Jesus' mind, and he grants her request. It is as though Jesus was waiting for her to declare her faith in him openly before granting her request. 

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Life preserver

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Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- Matthew 14: 22-33

When Peter and the disciples saw Jesus coming toward him across the stormy lake, they were terrified. They hadn't seen this side of Jesus before. Up until this point in their relationship with him, they had no idea that he had such awesome power over the forces of nature. They had underestimated him. Who was this guy?

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Seeing in a New Light

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August 6, 2017 – Transfiguration of the Lord -- Matt. 17:1-9

By Dr. David M. Thomas 

From time to time, CFM's blog will share Gospel reflections by veteran family life minister, David Thomas

What do you see when you look up into a clear night sky? Maybe the moon, if it’s “out” that night. Maybe a smattering of stars. If you have learned a little about constellations, you might be able to recognize the Big Dipper or Orion the Hunter. During these summer months, if you live far enough away from the city lights, you can see right overhead the Milky Way (the center of our galaxy) spreading across the sky with its thousands upon thousands of stars. Or, as sometimes is the case, you might not notice any of this!

In so many ways, the act of seeing is far from simple. And appreciating what we might see is even more complex. Think of the members of your family. How deeply do you see them, appreciate them, even know them? The same can be said about friends and neighbors. Relationships of any kind can be like the icebergs that we are reading about as our planet warms. What floats above the surface of the ocean is only one-tenth of its true size and magnitude. Most is hidden unless you really look at it. And once you do, you will see more. Might this also apply to how we see others in our lives? Or even ourselves?

Today, we again are presented with that amazing moment when three of the closest disciples of Jesus saw him in a new way. It’s called the transfiguration, meaning that the one that they were accustomed to seeing one way suddenly appeared in a new way. He changed before their very eyes.

But was he a different person than the one with whom they climbed that mountain? Surely not. So, did Jesus really change? In a sense, he didn’t. But how they saw him did change. They saw him as one who related to their religious history. They saw him as one loved by God. And seeing him in those ways changed what they saw.

The transfiguration, I believe, is not a totally exceptional experience for the disciples. The point that is quite clearly made in the story is that having seen Jesus in a transformed state, he then returned to looking as he had before. But what did the disciples then see in him? That he was someone quite remarkable, one very close to God.

Now, look in the mirror. Who do you see? Do you see someone deeply loved by God? Do you see someone that God thinks about and cares for day after day? Do you see someone who has an important role to play in God’s hope and dream in human history? If you answer “no,” then look again.

David Thomas, PhD

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Hold that hoe

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Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 13: 24-43

In the Gospel parable, weeds grow among the wheat, and the wise gardener lets them be. Pulling them out abruptly will do more harm than good. We are like the gardener when we have patience with others. If we accept each son or daughter, each new in-law and out-law as he or she is, we may be surprised how they bless us. In our workplace or parish community also, we are called to tenderly care for every member without prejudice.

 

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Waste not, want not

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Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 13:1-9

In the parable of the sower, Jesus tells of seed strewn over the ground without concern for where it will land. The sower is wasting his time and money but seems completely unconcerned. He is confident of a rich harvest in the end.

Loving someone can seem like a waste of time, but this Gospel story teaches us otherwise.

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