Have you noticed that, as you seek to probe a parable it can be as exciting and intriguing as the challenge of a Father Brown, James Patterson or Jessica Fletcher fictionalized mystery story. Ah, there’s one big difference – a mystery may seem pretty far-fetched while Jesus’ parables deal with real-life issues. They are alike in this: both are filled with clues – though some may be quite subtle. Lectio helps us probe Jesus’ parables – like in a game of Clue – bit by bit gaining us information that will enrich our lives.
These past few weeks, we move ever closer to the end of the church year, the liturgy has been offering us clues about the meaning of the “last days.” In this parable, Jesus uses the “root of all evil” metaphor. It’s about more than our monthly pocket money. This is about life and our allotment of gifts, talents, and responsibilities. We can’t be reminded too often that our gifts, our talents, our donors’ contributions are given to us primarily for service to others. And, there is a promise coming: If we make the intended use of these gifts, we will be rewarded and entrusted with even more responsibilities. Sadly, some people deliberately fail at a job or chore they don’t like so they won’t get asked to do it again. What about us and our talents? Do we let dislike of a job, or a personality conflict with a co-worker or the threat of failure, or someone else’s critical eye hold us back from using a God-given talent? Or how about a more mundane question: We get an allowance each month – do we bury it, hoard it, save it for vacation or a rainy day? On the other hand, do we tithe a portion for the good of others so it keeps moving forward, good upon good?
Like the Master in this Gospel, St. Benedict teaches us “journey lessons.” He speaks most directly to and about those who are sent on the journey… He doesn’t say that the Prioress, upon her return, will ask for an accounting – She knows “when the Prioress is away, the mice will play.” And in all likelihood she will not (like the Master in this parable) distribute money to the members who well-tended the vineyard in her absence. [But Benedict’s instruction does not preclude the Prioress from bringing home trinkets / mementos for everyone.]
We can sense the journey motif from the opening words of Benedict’s Rule when he bids us: “Listen! The labor of obedience will bring you back (“coming back” requires a journey, doesn’t it?). “Let us get up then, at long last,” for the Scriptures rouse us when they say: “It is high time for us to arise from sleep…” (come from the land of your dreams) “while you have the light… go out to seek workers in the multitude of the people ….” Listen to Benedict: “Moving on in your journey of faith,” (and life in the monastery) “you will say, Here I am Lord.” And, then he tells us how to prepare for our journey: “Clothed with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide…. Be just in all your dealings, speak the truth from the heart and do not practice deceit or listen to slander.”
By the time Benedict wrote chapter 67 one can tell he’s had some experience with monks who journeyed afar from the home monastery. We know that Benedict, in his youth, had escaped “big city life.” So he wanted to protect his monks from the evils and temptations of the prevailing society. Those at home are to remember the absent ones in prayer … which means the gathered community may have “counted” noses,” not for the sake of taking roll call, but to pray for their confreres safety and protection from temptation.
I have to smile when I read what Benedict cautions next. He certainly knew human nature: “no one should presume to relate what was seen or heard outside the monastery.” Sounds to me like he’s familiar with the saying from Ecclesiastes: “Everything is wearisome beyond description.” In plain English this can be interpreted: “No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.” We need to be on guard to not be hungry/eager for a morsel of gossip to savor. Benedict didn’t want stories of the world to creep in and cause dissension or dissatisfaction to rankle or upset his community. Times haven’t changed much over the passing years – we still need to be on guard that we balance chartable interest in each other versus the drive to know every intimate detail about what was seen or heard by the other.
In line with his admonition to pray always, Benedict reminds his monks that on a journey to keep an eye on the sun … listen for the bells from neighboring abbeys announcing prayer times. … so, (Benedict reminds them) though at a distance too far to join the community, they should “observe the prescribed hours” as best they can. Thus, probably began the custom of the Angelus … the dialogue between Angel Gabriel and Mother Mary, a modified version of Sext (or Noon Prayer) that could be memorized so as not to neglect their “measure of service.”
The Rule closes with this journey-question: “Are you hastening toward your heavenly home? Then keep this little rule … as you set out for loftier summits of the teaching and virtues we’ve mentioned.” Benedict, in his own unique way, shares Paul’s message to the Philippians that we heard in Wednesday’s evening reading: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Benedict adds this promise: “under God’s protection” (together) “we will reach our heavenly home.” That’s the same promise Jesus makes to his trustworthy followers: Because “You were faithful in small matters … come, share your Master’s joy.”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
This Year’s Thanksgiving Outreach
This year, obviously, we will not be hosting our traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We plan to collaborate with Pastor Cheryl Duke and the people at Dade City Presbyterian Church to provide food baskets for the needy. We will be contributing any monetary donations, along with supermarket gift cards, to extend our mission to “feed the hungers of the people of God.” The Knights from nearby St. Mark’s Parish have donated $1520 in gifts cards and $1305 was contributed by the Benedictine Sisters’ from their monthly personal allowances.
We are grateful for all the years that Saint Anthony Women’s Club and parish staff have allowed – and assisted us – in providing a free meal to the local community on Thanksgiving Day.
Twenty-six years ago the Sisters began small, in their monastery dining room, to provide a holiday meal for a handful of Saint Leo College International Students. Within three years, the Sisters moved the event to Marmion Cafeteria and extended an invitation to the public to join them for dinner. They gathered a crew of volunteers that grew over the years. In 1998, the Sisters sold Marmion Cafeteria to Saint Leo and the Saint Anthony Women’s club jumped on the bandwagon and have continued for the intervening years to provide all the desserts for the dinner. Saint Anthony School children got involved in making table centerpieces and place mats. We will greatly miss the gathering this year and look forward to a future when we can once again welcome our guests to bow their heads over a holiday meal to give thanks to God for all the gifts He provides.
First Reading Selected verses Proverbs31 Second Reading 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Gospel Reading Matthew 25:14-30
First, let me speak a bit about World Mission Sunday which is celebrated in parishes this weekend. The Society for the Propagation of the Faith was founded in 1882 by a young French laywoman, Pauline Jaricot, to aid the Church in preaching the Gospel in areas of the world where it had not been before. In our diocese, in answer to our baptismal call, the Propagation of Faith, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities continue that mission. The “people in the pews” contribute their prayers, moral support and financial help, that collectively feeds, cares for and nourishes bodies and spirits of the needy all over the world. In the Responsorial Psalm we will pray repeatedly: “Give the Lord glory, glory and honor.” As always, the prayers of the faithful are the most treasured gift to the Missions – to God give the glory and thanks for the generosity of the “people in the pews” and missionaries, lay and religious all over the world.
Mention of the Propagation of the Faith reminds me of a story about another call to mission told to me by our late Sister Pauline. (Some may recognize the story.) When Pauline was a young Sister in community, she and Sister Rita O’Connell embarked on a “begging tour” up the east coast of the U.S. When they reached Boston, Sister Rita told Sister Pauline they were going to visit a “very nice” bishop – whose name just happened to be William O’Connell (notice the family name?). However, it seems when they arrived unannounced it was the auxiliary bishop … the future Cardinal Spellman in the office that day. (You may recognize his name as the author of THE FOUNDLING.) Sister Pauline was “parked” with the secretary – they became life-long friends. Pauline said hours went by – no Rita. When the secretary went to check, it seemed Sister Rita had exited another door and left for Ireland! Now there is proof of such a trip in Sister Rita’s passport, stamped June 14, 1934 – a steamship passage that would have taken 7-10 days each way. Bishop Spellman and his secretary quickly came to Sister Pauline’s rescue. She related happy memories of the “few months” (as she described it) at the home of the secretary’s family on Commonwealth Avenue. She kept up with the sons many long years. And, yes, eventually, Sister Rita did return and they continued their tour across the U.S.
However, not too long after their return to Holy Name, the superior was informed that their “begging tour” had not been approved by the Propagation of the Faith and the funds were to be returned. The rest of the story is lost to history awaiting a deeper dive in the archives.
But to focus on the Gospel…. Pity Jesus – what a set up. According to Matthew’s account it sounds quite deliberate. “The Pharisees plotted that they might entrap Jesus in speech.” Then comes the set up. They open the encounter with: “We know you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God … and you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion.” Ever felt like someone was trying to program your response? I had a friend who more than once would start out sounding like she was looking for advice. But soon her tune would change: “Now, I’ve been praying about this, and God told me that this is what I – or you – should do.” That said, who am I to argue with God?
Or perhaps you’ve been handed a gift by someone who says: “I just know you’re gonna love what I bought you!” She’s standing right there waiting for you to look in the gift bag or unwrap the present. So, smile! And, hope you can fake it if it’s not something you wanted all your life.
It’s obvious, in such instances, only one answer can be right. Are they talking to hear their own voice rather than looking for information, allowing for some feedback or a sincere response? By stating a preference up-front, all chance of discussion is cut off. What’s worse, the listener is unlikely to honestly answer my question unless they feel like taking up the task of a debate.
What did Jesus do? He turned the tables on the group – the ones quizzing him were the anxious by-standers. “Why are you testing me.” He knew full well the answer. But he did not walk away. He gave them a chance to examine the coins in question. He knew the skill of engaging in a win-win dialogue. It’s true – He is God and would have the know-how. But being fully human, He had to have learned and practiced that skill somewhere. First in his family, then among neighborhood playmates, then, out, as they say “in the world.” Remember what is said about him when he was found in the temple? “After three days his parents found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”
Interactive, social skills, interpersonal communication skills are learned behaviors. They take practice. Learning how to “start – continue – stop” takes repetition and rehearsal. Jesus is the perfect model. As you lectio with Scripture notice his style. As Paul says in tomorrow’s Second Reading: “Our gospel did not come to us in word alone, but also in the power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.” Jesus modeled what he prescribed. He prayed, he listened, he engaged others in verbal exchange. He complimented, he corrected, he appealed to the listeners’ best selves. He promoted self-learning and self-correction. And, yes, Jesus challenges us: “Why are you testing me?”
~ Reflection by S. Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
1st Reading Isaiah 45:1;4-6 2nd Reading 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b
Gospel: Matthew 22:15-21Continue 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
Prayer Before the Election
Lord God, as the election approaches,
we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city/state/country,
and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.
We ask for eyes that are free from blindness
so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters,
one and equal in dignity, especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty.
We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned, men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender. We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom.
We pray for discernment so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word, live your love, and keep in the ways of your truth as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles
and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
– Author UnknownContinue Reading
Do and Be
Two unconnected but related phrases jump out here in this Gospel: “You – who do you say that I am?” And, “Jesus strictly ordered them to tell no one he was the Christ.” If we finally figure out who Jesus is but we can’t tell anyone, what’re we supposed to do with that long sought-after revelation?
I think the operative word here is “tell.” We’re not meant to tell others what or who to believe so much as to be a model that reveals more than words can say. To let our lives be a “show and tell” of mutual love and respect, of deference to each other – a “flesh and blood” model of our aim to build community, and to maintain a balance in our communal and personal lives of prayer and work, art and music and poetry. A living example of how “give and take” is part of life-long learning and nurtures our love for each other in spite of – no, because it causes us to see our own shadow side. Our modulated and friendly laughter, our expressions of gratitude with a simple phrase like “thank you – our hospitality and sharing. In other words: our gentle determination to be Christ-like AND to BE Christ to others. Our tenor of voice in our exchanges, our harmony in prayer and song, our attentive awareness to join the pace of our liturgy, our acknowledgement of Christ in the other when we pass in the hallways – all this “tells” who our Beloved model is.
And, you know what it takes to DO and BE this. That’s the answer to the question Jesus asks: “Who do YOU say that I am?” It takes close familiarity with WHO Jesus is. You’ve probably heard the expression “familiarity breeds contempt.” But the opposite is what’s true for those who seek to know Jesus – really to know anyone. Time spent in Jesus’ company – in the company of our companions – fosters intimacy, closeness and an ease in each other’s company. It’s true, too, for all who seek to build a relationship with another person or persons in community. It’s a powerful realization when we stop to think: each one of us is responsible for the community we create.
One of the many stories Monsignor Cummings (1918-2020) shared with me in his later years – I’d first met “Father George” in 1949 as a youngster at Good Counsel Camp – was also quoted at his funeral. It serves to remind all of us of what it takes to be a loyal follower, an imitator of Christ – a true servant.
When Monsignor was around 50 years a priest, (this true story goes) a young intern at Good Counsel Camp asked Father George: “When did you decide to become a priest?” Without skipping a beat, Cummings answered: “This morning.” He added as aside, “Every day I wake up and I recommit myself, to serving as a priest.”
That’s a true vocation story! Each and every day, we hear Jesus ask: “Who do you say that I am.” Whatever our response, He cautions: “Tell no one I am the Christ.” … “Rather, my friend, recommit yourself to be my instrument of peace in your community … who, in turn, together will be a living example of a “peaceable kingdom” to all who witness your way of life, and your living. “For where God has placed you, that is your pulpit.”