Excerpt from —“A Prayer for Leadership” by Joan ChittisterContinue Reading
ARE YOU ANGRY BECAUSE I AM GENEROUS?
Growing up I recall my mother speaking from fond memory of her love for all her Benedictine Sister-teachers she knew from Ridgely, MD. She had been double-promoted from seventh grade into high school. But, there was no Catholic high school and she didn’t particularly like the public school setting. At fourteen (14) she did what a lot of young people did. She dropped out, got a work permit and joined her sister in Atlantic Beach to wait tables. Later she became a nanny and housekeeper for a family that were loyal to her long after she married at age 33. At some point I asked her why she hadn’t become a Sister since she obviously loved them – she could name them all from Sister Philomena in first grade to Sister Florentine (for whom she took her Confirmation name) in her last grade at St. Elizabeth’s. Her answer to my query echoes that of the 5 o’clock men in this Gospel parable: “No one asked me.” Adding – “I figured I wasn’t good enough.” (“But, then, I wouldn’t have had you.”)
It strikes me that this Gospel must be a source of reassurance to those that some may describe as “late or delayed vocations.” When the 5 o’clock whistle blew the men in the parable figured they’d been overlooked again. “Don’t I look strong enough? What will I say to my wife and children?” The parable described these hopefuls as “standing around” but if you have seen day laborers gathered, hopefully waiting for a grove owner’s bus, you’ve seen some of them – already weary before the day has begun – sitting on a bench or crouched on their haunches. Their experience warning them once again there’d be no room for them on the bus.
So, they’re there – well, into the day – 5 o’clock the parable says – discouraged – AGAIN – picturing their children with hunger in their eyes. But, (wait) maybe (just maybe) they could pick up a few hours work but dark. Either way, their ears pricked up when they heard the voice of the landowner, the Master: “Why are you still here? You, too, go into my vineyard.”
What a surprise a short while later, when they looked into their pay envelopes to discover a full day’s wages! (Now, unlike the parable of the 10 lepers made clean, Matthew does not tell us how many said “thank you.”)
Is it possible, they discretely peeked in their envelopes, thinking, “He’s usually generous – wonder how much I got – will it put supper on the table? Mmmm, I better not act too surprised or delighted lest the early birds notice what’s occurred. I would venture a guess that these “Johnny come lately” guys might decide they better not push their luck tomorrow … lolly-gag or deliberately arrive late to join the guys on the bench.
(Enough of my imagining.) The whole Gospel story harkens back to a line from the First Reading from Isaiah: (God speaks) – “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” … (God, the Lord or to use the term in the Gospel – the Master, continues emphasizing how far apart God’s thoughts are from ours). “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts.” With that consideration in mind, (that God’s thoughts are a far cry from our earth-bound thoughts) jump to the last line in the Gospel parable: … “Am I not free to do as I wish with my own riches? Are you envious because I am generous?” [Has God ever had to ask that question of you?]
Isn’t this exactly Benedict’s point when he reminds his followers (well, he directs much to the abbot or prioress … but even the “grace of office” can’t work a transformation if the one elected isn’t already steeped in these traits.) As one of the speakers said in Thursday’s evening’s ZOOM presentation on Racism: “A change in attitude doesn’t guarantee in a change in behavior.”
While we are “sitting on the bench we call life” we should not be “standing around idle” waiting to be hired – there is much to be done. The Rule offers us a good material for a personal check list:
(From RB 2) “Honor all persons. Show no favoritism, but have respect for all. (RB 27 and 34) Any favoritism should be shown for the weak. (RB 2 and 27) Accommodate a variety of lifestyles; don’t exercise any form of tyranny. (RB 62) Follow what you consider better for others. No favoritism will be given due to rank or status. (RB 3) Even the youngest should be heard with respect in community deliberations. (RB 59) No distinction between rich and poor; respect all equally.”
In regard to respect for individual pathways to holiness, Benedict says in RB 73: there is always more you can do. Those who can do more, should do so. “As observant and obedient monk, we blush for shame at being so slothful, so unobservant, so negligent. Are you hastening toward your heavenly home? Then, with Christ’s help, keep this little rule … After that, you can set out for the loftier summits of teaching and the virtues, and under God’s protection you will reach them.”
Can you hear the landowner asking: “Why are you standing here idle all day? Go into my vineyard and I will give you what is just.”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB
First Reading Isaiah 55:6-9 Second Reading Philippians 1:20-24, 27a
Gospel Matthew 20:1-16aContinue Reading
From our friends at Emmanuel MonasteryContinue Reading
“Who Am I to Judge”
Last week’s Gospel and this Sunday’s are a contrast to the image of Jesus the Gentle Shepherd. It’s a “sit up and take notice” alert. It seems Jesus is saying: look I’ve coddled you – cured you’re sick, healed the lame, gave sight to the blind, cast out demons. But, there is another side to the story. Yes, God is the Good Shepherd putting the strayed lamb over His shoulder. (I don’t mean any irreverence when I say this) Now, before I put you down, I am giving you a “slap on the rump.” Now, I am giving you a “slap on the bottom.” You are accountable for your own actions!
(Paraphrased by SRB) I trust you have learned the lessons of “Giving Second Chances.” Now, let me remind you of our personal responsibility to use your free will to exert the presence of GOODNESS and FORGIVENESS in our world. The kind of seeds that put down roots of PEACE and CONCORD between peoples and nations … starting in your own community.
Jesus’ parables have been presenting mounting evidence of the strength of the bonds – positive and negative – that we hold over each other. Follow the strands through Matthew’s Gospels over the past few Sundays. “Forgive and it will be forgiven you. Whatever you bind – or whoever you bind – shall be bound in heaven. I had pity on you – should you not have pity on your brother, your sister, your spouse, your children, your comrades? Whoever you loose, shall be loosed in heaven. Whoever shall lose her life, her reputation for my sake will be saved. Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you. Stop thinking as human beings do; think as God does.” Recall the line (last week) from Ezekiel: “If you not speak out against evil, I will hold you responsible.” Jesus means real evil here – not nit-picking. Not making people accountable for the preferences I hold dear. Not asking curiosity questions that imply guilt or cause another to question “What’d I do wrong?” Making poor choices is different from doing wrong. A poor choice may cause you personal trouble, extra steps or time. But it can be a lesson learned. WRONG is a violation of God’s law, not one I wrote.
Asking “what critters or plants did you see on your walk today?” sits much more gently than “So, did you get any exercise today?” “I like that shirt” may satisfy your curiosity about: “Did you take a shower when you came home today?” The former conveys a compliment; the latter is an invasion of privacy and out of place.
What does Jesus say? And, we heard it in Benedict’s Rule last evening … “Beware the plank in your own eye.” Resolve to make TRUST your byword, your covenantal promise to each other. Promise yourself – and promise each other – that you will not be the one who initiates a cycle of rumors, gossip or suspicion; cattiness, negativity or any flavor of mistrust.
In the words of St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians (part of which was read at today’s Noon Prayer): The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. … Let us never be boastful or challenging or jealous toward one another. Help carry one another’s burdens; in that way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:25-26)
In the words of Pope Francis: “God is in every person’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster – God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.” (World Youth Day 2014) Remember Pope Francis’ often quoted words to reporters who were with him on a return flight to Rome from South America. He had was being asked his opinion about clergy sex scandals. He said simply: “Who am I to judge.”
Have a pleasant week … prayerfully remember those who are suffering on the West U.S. coast from the fires and poor air quality; places getting an over-abundance of rain causing flooding, recovering from tropical winds and stormy conditions … and so many other hardships … When all else fails, prayer fervently!
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB
First Reading Sirach 27:30-28:7 Second Reading Romans 14:7-9
Gospel Matthew 18:21-35Continue Reading
From our friends at Emmanuel MonasteryContinue Reading
Indulge me today – humor me …
I’d like to invite you to join me in game of Twister … you probably know the game – has nothing to do with tornadoes and violent winds … So look at your card … Imagine it is a mat. In Twister, if this were the real game, 2 players face each other on opposite sides of the mat. I’ll be the referee who calls out the directions. Let’s begin.
Visualize it: place your right hand on the yellow circle in the upper right hand quadrant of the “mat.” (They’re labeled in case you’re directionally-challenged.)
That’s reserved for a quote from the Sunday’s first reading. The Prophet Ezekiel speaks: “I have appointed you as a guardian over your household. You shall warn them for me, to dissuade them from their sinful ways. If you do not try to turn them from their willful ways, I will hold you responsible.” (Adapted Ezekiel 33:7-9)
Now, your left hand on the red circle in the lower left quadrant: St. Paul speaks to you who reside in the church of Rome. “My Sisters (and Brothers) – I plead with you: owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another. For the one who loves has fulfilled the law. Love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself.” (Romans 13:8-10)
Now – visualize it – you’ll understand why this game is called Twister. Place your right foot on the green circle in the lower right quadrant … and hear what Jesus says: “If your Sister offends you, go and have a conversation with her alone. If she listens to you, you have won a friend for life…. I say to you: if the two of you agree and pray about anything, it shall be granted to you by my heavenly Father…. There am I in your midst.” (Matthew 18:15-20)
(Feeling like a pretzel?) One more call: Bring your left foot onto the blue circle in that upper left Twister quadrant. And, sing or pray the words of the Responsorial Psalm: “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart.”
Tired of mental gymnastics? So stand up and draw those Scriptural strands together. Ponder: what did we hear? From Psalm 95: “Harden not your heart if you hear this message.” What shall I take to heart? In Ezekiel’s message: “I (meaning each one of us), “am the guardian of this household.” St. Paul reminded us: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.” St. Benedict in his rule for monastics passes on to us the same identical words of the advice Jesus gives us in the Gospel: “If your Sister offends you, go and have a confidential, prayerful conversation with her alone knowing that Jesus is there in your midst. “
In our day-to-day living, how do these Scriptures play out?
+ the responsibility lies with YOU … in YOUR heart
+ you can’t “pass the buck” or assign motives or put it in someone else’s agenda
+ you can’t use email, Instagram, or a note at “her” door
+ neither can you “turn a blind eye” or pretend you didn’t hear the barb, the uncharitable, inappropriate remark
+ our only debt, the only thing we owe each other, is LOVE.
When this is our quest and our aim, then, we can peacefully “play in the same sandbox.” In other words, with a clear conscience we can honestly claim (as we do in our philosophy statement: “we are Christ to one another; we seek form bonds of mutual love and respect and call forth the best in one another. We freely and generously open our lives to others in hospitality and place ourselves in service to the larger community.”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
First Reading: Ezekiel 33:7-9 Second Reading: Romans 13:8-10
Gospel Matthew 18:15-20