Archive for category Parables
According to Jewish tradition, the resurrection of the just, and the subsequent setting up of the kingdom of God, was to be ushered in by a great festival in which all of the chosen people would participate. Hence their saying: ‘Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.’
What does it mean to “eat bread in the kingdom of heaven”? In the ancient world the most notable sign of favor and intimate friendship was the invitation to “share bread” at the dinner table or the table fellowship. Who you ate with showed who you valued and trusted as your friends. One of the most beautiful images of heaven in the scriptures is the royal wedding celebration and banquet given by the King for his son and close friends.
The gospel parable that we just heard is commonly known as the Parable of the Great Feast. Let us be reminded that in the Gospel Jesus usually uses parables to describe and explain the characteristics and mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven. Through this Parable the Lord remind us of God the Father’s invitation to the greatest banquet in heaven. Included and implied in this invitation are the following:
First, God wants all men and women to be saved (1 Tim 2:4) and come to the fullness of knowledge of Jesus who is the Way, Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6).
Second, God wants His people to be happy with him in the kingdom of heaven. This is also reiterated to us by the Church when she teaches, “To be in blessed and intimate communion with God is the fulfillment of the deepest longing of the human, a state of supreme and definitive happiness.”
Third, God wants His people to value and prioritize heaven over corporal, material and earthly things which may pass away.
It is frightening to note, however, that those who were not able to attend the great feast were not those who refused to come; they merely had other important things to do. They were simply more concerned and pre-occupied with corporal, material and temporal problems—for example, a piece of ground, a yoke of oxen, or a wife. As we look at the part possessions and relations play in this parable, we can see that there is great risk in them—risk that concern for temporal things may cloud our view of what is eternally important.
Do we see heaven as our ultimate goal? Are we really serious with our ultimate destiny? If yes, Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God is a matter of urgency and top priority. Mere words are not enough. Good intentions are not enough. Action is needed. It demands our positive and concrete response here and now. It demands that we give everything to it. Else we would be shut out forever from the Kingdom of heaven.
How many times does God call us to repentance, conversion, and new life only to be ignored because there are more pressing things to attend to? How many times God continues to teach, sanctify and lead us through the Bible or through Church, her ministers and sacraments only to be taken for granted because there are more important things to do?
In today’s Mass, let us once gain focus our attention to heaven which is our ultimate destiny and goal. As we journey towards our ultimate home, let us hate evil, hold on to what is good, true and pleasing to the Lord, then help building up and spreading the kingdom of God here on earth until it is perfected in heaven. As the Lord said: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33).
Parables are comparisons in which spiritual truth is pictured in vivid terms (Blomberg 1990). “Jesus’ invitation to enter his Kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching (Cf. Mk 4:33-34).
The Parable that was just read is commonly known as the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. Mark Bailey calls this parable, “A day on the job in the kingdom of God.” (because the work takes place throughout the day and the payroll is at the end of the day.)
The parable emphasizes the times that the laborers were hired. The Landowner hired laborers early in the morning (6:00) and made an agreement with them to pay them a denarius for the day’s work. It says the owner agreed which makes me think the workers asked for the denarius and he agreed to it.
The Landowner went out again at 9:00, 12:00, 3:00 and 5:00 and asked others if they would like to come to work without indicating what they would earn, only that he would be fair (vs. 4). If the first guy is going to get 1 denarius for 12 hours work, what do you expect the 2nd group to get? 3/4, then 1/2 then 1/4 and then 1/12th respectively.
At the end of the day, the Landowner went to pay them and started with the last group. He gave them each 1 denarius. What do you expect the next group to get? Three denarii. The next group six, and the next nine and the first group that was hired expects to get 12 denarii. But he gave everyone the same amount – one denarius – regardless of whether they had worked one hour or twelve hours.
It is not surprising therefore, that those were hired first complained and accused the owner of being unfair.
But the owner justifies his actions:
- on the basis of agreement – they agreed to work for a denarius. The owner calls him “friend” which in Matt is not a term of endearment.
- on the basis of ownership – can I do what I want with what is mine?
- on the basis of generosity – can I be gracious to whom I want to be gracious?
Again, is the landowner unjust or unfair? Certainly not. The landowner is just when he paid them all individually with the same amount or salary because that was the thing agreed upon by the landowner and the labourers. The landowner is generous, compassionate and merciful when he paid them all individually with the same amount regardless of of whether they had worked one hour or twelve hours. Simply stated, the landowner is not unjust. Rather he is both just and gracious or compassionate or merciful.
This is the message and the challenge for all of us who are adopted children of God: to be just yet gracious, merciful and compassionate. “Mercy without justice is baloney. Justice without mercy is tyranny.”
“Grace and mercy are both expressions of God’s love, grace to the guilty and undeserving, mercy to the needy and helpless” (John Stott, The Letters of John). Let us, therefore, be merciful as Jesus is merciful (Lk 6:36) for “whoever acts without mercy will be judged without mercy” (James 2:13).May we have mercy on all, especially to those who are going through a time when they are given little or no mercy.
Prayer: Father, may I love those considered unlovable.
The Parable of the Net has close similiarity with the two earlier parables, the Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Weed.
The Parable of the Net is closely similar to the Parable of the Mustard Seed in the sense that it describes the Kingdom of God as universal in scope and in nature. Hence, based on these two parables, the Kingdom of God here on earth is intended to accept men and women of all generations and of all nations and that include both the wicked and the righteous, the saint and the sinner, the good and the bad. In connection with this what is the challenge for us? To adopt an open, non discriminating and non judgmental and freewheeling approach to evangelization. A major problem which we will be encountering with this approach however would be: both the undesirables and desirables will enter and mixed in the Church. Some undesirables will be converted…Some undesirables who seemed promising in the beginning will betray God in the end. God does not make us responsible for this. But let us always be reminded to withold our judgment for judgment belongs, not to the disciples, but to God. This parable, however, is not a call to overlook grievous sin. A few chapters hence, Jesus will establish procedures for reproving sinners and for excommunicating them if they fail to mend their ways (Mt 18:15-20).
The Parable of the Net is closely similar to the Parable of the Weed in the sense that these parable recognize the fact that the the Kingdom of God here on earth is composed of both sinners and saints. We cannot perfectly separate the two and eliminate the oter while the Kingdom of God is still on earth. Otherwise we will destroy the good together with the bad. We will uproot the weed while uprooting the weed whose roots were already entwined with the wheat. But when the day of the Final Judgment comes, the good and the bad will be totally and perfectly separated like what the fishermen did in the Parable. After having scooped up all sorts fish, both the good and bad the fishermen sorted their catch and discarded the unwanted or the usable fish.
Whether we like it or not the day of the final judgment will come. Matthew never tires in warning his readers of the reality of judgment and hence the importance of genuine discipleship. It is a warning that both the world and the Church need” (Hagner).When that day comes the good and bad will finally and perfectly be separated. The wicked goes directly to hell to be punished eternally while the righteous will be rewarded in heaven and they “will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father (Mt 13:43).
“Mention of the final judgment reminds the hearers and readers of the parables that discipleship is not a game of ‘let’s pretend’; it is a matter of life and death” (Brueggemann, 424). The reality of the final judgment once again remind us that following Jesus is not a game of “let’s pretend.,” it is a matter of life and death, it is a matter of salvation and damnation, it is a matter of happiness and misery. Choose life and lasting happiness with God and with our loved ones in heaven.
Parables are comparisons in which spiritual truth is pictured in vivid terms (Blomberg 1990). In the story Jesus used the parable to explain the wise ways of the Kingdom of God concerning the mystery and problem of evil not only in the world but even in the Church which is the seed and the beginning of the Kingdom of God here on earth that will be fully and perfectly established in heaven.
The parable Jesus used is popularly known as the Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat.The type of weed referred to here is commonly recognized as the darnel (Greek zizania) which is troublesome poisonous plant in the grainfields, closely resembling the wheat in the first stages of its growth. By the time the grain appears and the difference becomes obvious, the roots of the weeds are entwined with those of the wheat. Thus uprooting the weeds would simultaneously cause uprooting of the wheat.
This parable reflects the wise ways of God’s kingdom (which already starts with the Church) concerning the problem of evil even among the believers. It is unwise to get rid of unworthy members which may have the unhappy consequence of driving out also some of the worthiest. Therefore, weeds and wheat must be allowed to grow together for the time being. The task of separating the evil from the good must be reserved for the last judgment.
The Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat teaches us several lessons:
- First, there will always hostile power in the world (Satan, the world, concupiscence or evil inclination) seeking and waiting to destroy the good seeds that represent the children of the Kingdom who received with joy the word of God that will eventually bear fruits of good works, holiness and evangelization in their lives. Hence, this is an admonition to all the Children of God to be forever on their guard. This vigilance should be continuous and unflagging, because the devil is forever after us, prowling around “like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). “Watch with the heart, watch with faith, watch with love, watch with charity, and watch with good works” (cf. Augustine, “Sermon”, 93).
- Second, the world including the Church is composed of both saints and sinners, good and evil. The world is a mixture of the children of God and the children of Satan. And how hard it is to distinguish between the good and evil, the saints and the sinners. Someone may appear to be good and may in fact bad; and someone may appear to bad and may in fact be good. Some call good evil and evil good. Sometimes people change too according to opportunities and graces. Hence, let us not too quick to condemn, to classify people and label them good or bad without knowing all the facts. Remember our human judgment is as good as our information, Limited information make us prone to error and mistakes in making judgment.
- Third, in the end there comes the judgment of a just and all-knowing God. A God who will never deceive us nor can be deceived by us. He alone has the right to judge. He alone can discern the good and the bad. He alone can rightly administer the ultimate justice for humankind which seems to be impossible in the world governs by the law, judgment and wisdom of man. This is a warning to the evil doers who seem to be rewarded in life in this world and a consolation to the righteous who seem to be punished in life in this world.
In summary, Jesus calls us to patience and faith — patience with those who fail to meet the standard (this is the concern of the parable itself — vv. 24-30) and faith that God will deal with them at the right time (this is the concern of the interpretation — vv. 36-43). Jesus calls us to withhold action lest we create more problems than we solve — lest we destroy the good with the bad — lest we “uproot the wheat along with (the weeds).”
Think about this! “First, do not fret over evildoers, for neither their present nor their future is your responsibility; and second, God will bring history to a close with justice, and the saints finally will be freed from abuse and oppression. The parable…is therefore not a threatening but a comforting word” (Craddock, 372).
Human experiences teach us:
- That the people who hurt us often and hurt us the most are people who are so close to us. That is why there is a song entitled, “Why do we always hurt the one we love?”
- That the people we find the hardest to forgive are also people who are so close to us. People as such we call them traitors and ungrateful. It has been said that one’s best friends is one’s worst enemies.
- That the people who are deeply hurt or aggrieved have the tendency to self-pity, anger, hatred, resentment and revenge.
Given all these, it is hard to forgive, much harder, to forgive constantly. Indeed Alexander Pope is correct when he said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”
If your heart is filled with anger, hatred and revenge and you find it hard to forgive those who hurt or offended you, then, the message of today’s Gospel is for you: love the repentant sinner by forgiving him while hate the sin; hope for repentance of sinner and celebrate the redemption of even one sinner.
In today’s gospel, Jesus gave us the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin and the lost son. They all illustrate the point that God rejoices about each sinner who repents. “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (verse 7)… “there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” They reveal to us that God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in compassion and relenting in punishment ( Ps 103:8, 145:8-9,15-18, Jl 2:12-13).”
Allow me to focus my homily on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) is perhaps better named the parable of the lost son, since it is designed to go with the parables of the lost sheep (verses 3-7) and lost coin (verses 8-10). Some have even called it the parable of the prodigal father, because of the father’s extravagance. Even today, after centuries of teaching about God’s grace, the father’s willingness to forgive his runaway son is shockingly generous.
Going back to the parable we just heard, the younger son’s request was impudent and disrespectful. Typically, sons received their inheritance on the death of their father. Sometimes a father might decide to distribute part or all of the inheritance early so that he might retire, but the initiative is the father’s—not the son’s. In the event that a son received his inheritance prior to the father’s death, the son was expected to stay at home to provide for his parents in their old age. That was part of what it meant to “honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exod 20:12).
This younger son was guilty of: (1) assuming the initiative that belonged to his father (2) treating his father as if he were dead (3) ignoring his obligation to his parents in their old age and (4) breaking the family relationship by leaving. Such conduct was shameful in that culture. A father would feel ashamed to have raised such a son. Neighbors would raise their eyebrows and thank God not to have such sons themselves.
Despite of what had happened the father has forgiven his repentant impudent and disrespectful son who deeply offended and hurt him. The father in the parable represents God the Father who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13) while the prodigal son represents the worst sinner who returns to the Father with contrite and humble spirit. Just as God the Father has forgiven us in Christ when were sinners and when we were still His enemies let us also forgive those who has hurt and offended us.
Why do we need to forgive?
- “The only way to peace is forgiveness. To accept and give forgiveness makes possible a new quality of rapport between men, interrupts the spiral of hatred and revenge and breaks the chains of evil which bind the heart of rivals” (Pope John Paul II, Homily at Mass for First Sunday of Lent, “Day of Pardon”, March 12, 2000 and Angelus Message, March 12, 2000).
- “Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the high cost of hatred, and the waste of energy” (E. C. McKenzie).
- Forgiveness of one another is a condition for authentic worship of the Father. “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24; cf. 6:14-15; Mk 11:25; CCC 2841; cf. CFC 2187).
- Man must forgive in order to be forgiven by God. The parable is a comment upon the fifth petition of the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us” (Mt 6:12). Those, and those only, may expect to be forgiven of God, who forgive their brethren “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will you Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt 6:14, 15). As James had it, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).
“Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as God has forgiven you in Christ” (Col 3:12f). Forgive and “so be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect ” (Mt 5: 44-48).
So far as we are informed, the rich man mentioned in the scriptures who died while his barns were bulging with goods that he couldn’t use was not an evil man. Jesus didn’t say that he was dishonest, immoral, or lazy. The man was rich prior to the harvest, and the harvest simply increased his wealth. Certainly, he appears to have been very successful in his occupation. He must have been an intelligent and industrious worker to have accumulated such a great amount of wealth. The Lord didn’t call him a sinner; he merely said he was a fool.
Why such harsh condemnation? The man is a fool “because he has forgotten how the saying goes, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.‘ The saying applies strictly in his case; he will die during the night that begins the new day. Therefore, his grand plans are worthless” (Tannehill, 206).
Was this not a provident man who had worked hard all his life, saved his money and invested wisely, and now deserved to retire in comfort? Where had he failed?
First, the rich failed to restrain his obsession for possession and wealth. In the story we are told that he was so obsessed to hoard more, to possess more and to acquire more not knowing that death awaits him and caught him by surprised and, therefore, he was unprepared for his untimely death. And that costs him his soul. Indeed “Greed never rests from the acquiring of more” (On Love of Wealth 1 [Mor. 523 E]; L. T. Johnson 1991:198) until death puts a stop to it.
Second, he had failed to recognize the principle of stewardship. In his eyes, they were his barns, his fruits, his goods. He had forgotten, if he ever knew, that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, that every material thing we possess is by His sufferance and only temporarily.
Possessions or wealth are stewardship, not to be hoarded selfishly but to be used to benefit those around us. Jesus is not saying possessions are bad, but that the selfish pursuit of them is pointless. When the creation is inverted, the value of possessions is distorted. Those who climb over people or ignore them in the pursuit of possessions will come up empty on the day God sorts out our lives. What a tragic misuse of the gift of resources this man had gained! What could have been an opportunity for generosity and blessing became a stumbling block to the soul.
Third, having forgotten that, it was only natural that his use of his wealth was so self-centered. The hint of his problem lies in the man’s use of the first-person pronoun. Go through the parable and circle the words “I” and “my” to get a sense of the man’s self-absorption. In his short conversation with himself, he uses the word “I” six times and the word “my” five times. There is no thought of a bonus for his hired hands or a service project for his community. There is no word of thanksgiving to God for this tremendous harvest. Everything is “I” and “my.”
All of it was to go into his enlarged barn for his ease. One commentator writes, It is mischievous error with which he starts, “I have not where to bestow my fruits”; and St. Ambrose has answered well, “Thou HAST barns, – the bosoms of the needy, – the houses of the widows – the mouths of orphans and of infants.” (Richard C. Trench, op. cit., p. 341) There was no thought of sharing, no concern for the poor, no awareness of brotherhood.
What is this rich fool guilty of? He is guilty of greed or avarice which he greatly manifested by his self-absorption and obsession for possession and wealth. Greed, an inordinate desire for material things, is one of the seven deadly sins. An avaricious person offends against justice and charity and becomes insensitive to the needs of his neighbor, so keen is he on his self-aggrandizement. “If you are inclined to avarice,” say St Francis de Sales, “think of its folly: it makes us slaves to that which was intended to serve us. Remember how we must leave everything when we die; perhaps those who get our wealth then will only squander it, and even to their ruin” (“Introduction to the Devout Life”, 4, 10). To use of the words of St. Paul, he is guilty of the love of money which is the root of all evil (see cf. 1 Tm 6:10).
Greed is an insidious trap that has the power to destroy those whose obsession for wealth and possession becomes the driving force of their lives. Greed is the devious, sinister, evil influence that makes people say, ‘What I have is not enough. I must have more. So that I will be more.’
Greed or avarice is the great cancer eating out the heart of mankind; and the Lord in his teaching here moved to lead men away from it. Human wants are insatiable; and getting only adds to the appetite for more. Paul associated it with moral uncleanness (Ephesians 4:19), calling it “idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). It is an evil that destroys man’s life here and hereafter.
“Be on your guard and avoid every kind of greed, for even though you have many possessions, it is not that which gives you life.” What does it profit a man if gains the whole world and loses his soul? Hence, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33).
Charles L. Allen once said, “When you say a situation or person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.” I do not exactly the context when and why he said it but considering the message in itself in the light of the gospel we can somehow conclude that he was indeed correct when he said it. Why? Because there is no such thing as hopeless situation only people who have grown hopeless about their situation. And more importantly, with God nothing is hopeless. No one is hopeless. To the one who believes nothing is impossible. To the one who persistently prays nothing is impossible.
The gospel parable that we just heard is commonly known as the “The Parable of the Persistent Widow.” As the title suggests, the main theme of the Gospel is PERSISTENCY IN PRAYER.
There are people who have stopped praying because they claimed their prayers were not answered by God or they can no longer stand the delay. The way this group of peoply pray is this: “Lord, I pray for this. And I want it here and now.” Fundamental question about prayer such as “Until when should I pray?” always pops up like adwares, starwares and trojan viruses in the internet even among the devout believers? Today we are happy to know that the theme of today’s gospel parable gives us an explicit and direct answer to the question.
Considering the gospel as a whole it gives us several points:
First, the duty to pray, to pray constantly, to pray with confidence and persistence. As Jesus assures us: “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you.” To the one who prays like this, the heavenly Father will “give whatever he needs,” and above all the Holy Spirit who contains all gifts (see CCC 2613).
Second, the answer to the prayer, persisted in, is certain. “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will” (Mk 11:24). Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: “all things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23; cf. Mt 21:22). This is best articulated to us by Bruce R. McConkie when he wrote:
“If an unjust earthly judge will finally dispense justice because of the repeated importunities of the widow, how much more shall the God of all the earth, who is the embodiment of perfect justice and impartiality, grant the just petitions of his faithful saints.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 542.)
Third, God is always on the side of the poor, needy, exploited, and oppressed. When we are suffereing and when we are in need, exploited, and oppressed the more reasons for us to pray with confidence and persistence because the Lord is always our side. If the evil judge grants justice to the widow, however reluctantly, how much more will a loving God vindicate God’s people in times of need and crisis.
Fourth, prayer is rooted and flows from faith. When we are no longer praying constantly, confidently and persistenly it’s a sign, an indication that our faith is already wavering. This is the reason why Lord warns for the failure of faith when he comes again as judge both of the living and the dead. See to it, therefore, that you still believe and pray with persistence even in a seemingly hopeless situation, even in times of desperation, even in moments when God seems to be sleeping, far and busy with other concerns.
If you belong to those group of people who stopped praying because they claimed their prayers were not answered by God or they can no longer wait pause and think about this:
God always says yes to our prayers. The yes of God however is not the yes we want it to be. If he does not give us our request, it is because he gives something better.
Yes God always reply to all our prayers. His reply may be as follows:
3. I have something better for you.
When you pray always consider and be consoled with these:
1. The love of God that wants the best for us.
2. The wisdom of God that knows what is best for us.
3. The power of God that can accomplish it.
Allow me to end my homily with an exhortation taken from the letter of Paul to the Thessalonians:
“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is Gods will for you in Christ Jesus, “ (1 Thess. 5:16-18).