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About gregrowles

Born Sydney, live Sydney Australia. "People who are intimidated by you talk bad about you with hope that others won't find you appealing

THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-17In our Gospel reading for this Mass, Jesus tells a parable of risk and rewards and the responsibility that comes with great gifts. In the parable, a very wealthy landowner entrusts his servants with vast sums of money. A talent was a measure of gold worth roughly fifteen years’ wages for a day labourer.

The master gives one servant five talents, another two, and the last a single talent.  So, for the first hearers of the parable, it was clear that it was large sums of money with which the master entrusted his servants. The one in whom the master put the greatest trust made a vast sum of money, but to do so, he had to put at risk seventy-five years’ wages for a day labourer.

We have a story of three persons entrusted with great responsibility. Even the one who was given the care of a single talent was entrusted with much. Each would have to risk much if they wanted to show a return on investment.

The first two doubled the master’s money. Each was rewarded with more money. Not money for themselves. Each was given more money to invest for their master. The reward for faithfulness was more responsibility. Then came that fateful last servant. He, not too diplomatically, tells the master, “Sir, I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.”

This last servant risked nothing. He took what was entrusted to him and hid it. It was safe. There was little risk in digging a hole but no potential gain. And for not taking any risk with the money entrusted to him, the servant gets the worst possible punishment as his reward.

Jesus taught that the heart of the Good News is love. Our world was created for love, which means the freedom to do great evil as well as good. God gave us choices and through our choices, we can get hurt and we can hurt others. A universe where real love is an option is a risky place, as pain and suffering are not only possible, but likely. And yet, this world of choice founded on love is also what makes possible all the noble acts of self-sacrifice. This world is not only a world of pain and suffering, but also a world of generosity, kindness, and self-sacrificial love.

God invested so much love in you through Jesus’ life and ministry, death and resurrection. You can never repay that love. The good news is that you don’t have to pay Jesus back. God is not looking for a return on investment in quite the same way as the landowner in the parable. Jesus calls on a faith that is put to work and so grows stronger.

At the heart of this parable is really faith and trust that when we step out in faith, God will not leave us alone.

The servant’s failure to fully understand who his master is and what is most important to him leads the servant to think that burying his treasure is the correct course of action. His misconception of what the master demanded caused the servant to act out of fear, a fear so deep he was afraid to even try and do the work expected.

Today our English word, “talent,” comes to its current meaning through the preaching of the Middle Ages. In that time, when the English language as we know it was being forged, this parable was being preached. In preaching the story, congregations were told how these servants were given these large sums of money to watch over for their master. As the preaching went on through the centuries, it became easier to directly see the talents in this parable representing God’s gifts to us, posing the question, “What have you done with the talents God entrusted to you?” This created the meaning of our word, in which “talent” refers to our God-given gifts and abilities.

We, like all the people in today’s readings, are called to work with the talents our master has given us.    Like last week’s parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, this parable teaches that God’s judgment will be based on the service we render to God and to one another in accordance with the gifts that God has given to us. Our gifts, or talents, are given to us for the service of others.

This Gospel reminds us that Christian spirituality is not passive or inactive. Our life of prayer helps us to discern the gifts that have been given to us by God. This prayer and discernment ought to lead us to use our gifts in the service of God and our neighbour.

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Posted by on November 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-10In this week’s Gospel, Jesus talks about what it means to be prepared to receive the Kingdom of Heaven. The reading follows a series of warnings and predictions by Jesus about the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus wants his disciples to understand that the exact day and time cannot be predicted. He teaches the disciples that they must remain vigilant so that they will not be caught unprepared.

When thinking about the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, it is important to consider the first-century wedding traditions of Palestine. According to marriage customs of Jesus’ day, a bride was first “betrothed” to her husband but continued for a time to live with her family. Then, at the appointed hour some months later, the groom would come to claim her, leading her family and bridal party to the wedding feast that would celebrate and inaugurate their new life together.

As with many of Jesus’ parables, several levels of interpretation are possible. In last week’s Gospel, we heard Jesus warn against following the example of the Pharisees and scribes. If read in the context of early Christianity’s struggle to define itself against Pharisaic Judaism, this parable is a continuing critique of Judaism. It suggests that the Jewish leaders were like the foolish virgins, unprepared to meet Jesus, the bridegroom of Israel.

These parables are tricky. We can tend to treat them as doctrinal treatises or allegories, assigning parts to each character in the story. But what if Jesus meant to simply shock us with details such as closing the door on the foolish ones only to deliver the real message: Keep awake! One suspects Jesus really did not want us spending hours of Bible study dithering over questions such as “How could Jesus do that? Why would he close the door on anyone?” when we already know the answer is that he closed the door on no one. Not prostitute, not tax collector, not sinner. His door is always open.

The disciples to whom this little tale is told know that and have witnessed it every day. And like them, we ought to be those who recognize that what seems like his coming again is simply our awakening to the very real Good News of Jesus, that he is with us always to the end of the age. No waiting required. He is here. Forever and always. We might even say forever and all ways.

In the chapter preceding this parable, however, Jesus warns about the destruction of Jerusalem, the tribulation of the end times, and the coming of the Son of Man. When read in this context, today’s parable is a warning to the Christian community to remain vigilant and prepared to receive Jesus, the Son of Man who will return at the end of time. This interpretation is supported by the reference to the delay of the bridegroom. The Christian community for whom Matthew wrote this Gospel was coming to terms with the realization that the promise of Jesus’ return would not be fulfilled within their lifetimes. The question remains for us to ask ourselves: Are we ready to receive Jesus? Will we be prepared to receive him?

St. Paul warns in today’s Epistle, Jesus is coming again, though we know not the day nor the hour.

We need to keep vigil throughout the dark night of this time in which our Bridegroom seems long delayed. We need to keep our souls’ lamps filled with the oil of perseverance and desire for God—virtues that are extolled in today’s First Reading and Psalm.

We are to seek Him in love, meditating upon His kindness, calling upon His name, striving to be ever worthier of Him, to be found without spot or blemish when He comes.

We are, in short, those who help each other to wait, prepare, and keep the faith. In all these ways, we encourage each other with the promises of Christ. That’s what it means to be Christ’s followers, then and now. And that’s why we come together each Sunday, to hear and share the hope-creating promises of our Lord. As we approach the table of the Lord this Sunday, may we be watchful for his presence to us in the Eucharist and in the many other ways in which he visits us throughout the course of our lives.

 

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-10Having concluded a series of dialogues with the Pharisees and other religious leaders, Jesus now directs his words to the crowds, warning them not to follow the example of the scribes and Pharisees. Though they were Moses’ successors, the Pharisees and scribes exalted themselves and made their mastery of the law a badge of social privilege. Worse, they lorded the law over the people adding extra burdens. Like the priests Malachi condemns in today’s First Reading, they caused many to falter and be closed off from God.

And so, in our texts for today, we have the contrast between how Paul is trying to relate to his spiritual community, and how the scribes and Pharisees are. We can immediately see from how Jesus describes the scribes and Pharisees creating burdens for others who are already carrying crippling burdens of their own. They have taken the sacred Law of Moses, which Jesus upholds in this passage, and burdened it with the deceptively heavy weight of their own egos.

The scribes and Pharisees that Jesus describes do not believe that God loves them freely and fully regardless of what actions they do or do not take. They are constantly hustling for God’s favour. They do not believe in an unconditionally loving God in their heart of hearts. There are many Christians today who suffer from this. What began as an honest search for the love of God and a life in the centre of God’s will has turned into our becoming another burden. Why did this happen? What is missing?

When we approach the Christian life as a constant stream of virtuous activity directed as loudly as possible both at God and at our faith community. Our self-imposed burden will sooner or later become arrogance and self-satisfaction and lead to judge mentalism of the scribes and Pharisees in our gospel passage today.

“Let me remind you, brothers, how hard we used to work, slaving night and day so as not to be a burden on any one of you while we were proclaiming God’s Good News to you.,” Paul tells us. This “work,” “night and day,” that Paul speaks of consists in large part of patient and faithful prayer.

That’s one half of the equation—the labour and toil of prayer and individual encounter with God. The other half is the night and day patient engagement with one another in community. Moving from being a burden to others to lifting burdens from others requires exactly that—others. The quest for gospel transformation does not take place in a bubble. There are some of us who might enjoy sitting alone all day and thinking beautiful thoughts about God—but that is not love. Individualistic spiritual practice taken to an extreme will make us a burden to our community as surely as no spiritual practice at all.

Anyone who has had to carry heavy burdens will know that balance is the key. Trying to carry heavy bags of groceries up flights of stairs in only one hand is very difficult. Shift the bags to carry them equally in both hands and the burden is suddenly much easier to bear. So, it is with our balance of individual and community spiritual intimacy. Keep it all on one side of the equation and we are quickly out of balance, becoming heavy to both ourselves and others. Seek an even distribution of time alone with God and time together with God, and suddenly progress forward is smoother and easier.
Paul says in our epistle today that the Word is at work in us as believers. “it is still a living power among you who believe it.” That’s the most important thing of all as we seek to carry our own burdens and those of our fellow disciples. No burden we shoulder is ours to carry alone. The Holy Spirit within us is always present and ready to do the heavy lifting. Jesus says it himself in the Gospel of Matthew: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The burdens of life and community may never go away, but when the love of God pervades them, they are no longer crushing weights. Our burdens become a steadying presence, anchoring and grounding us in the faithful pursuit of grace and truth. For it is when we commit to turning our burdens over to God that we are at last empowered to bear the burdens of one another.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us be good disciples who share his message with those who need it so that they welcome the message.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

All Souls Day

1-19 It’s not very pleasant to think about death.

If we were not people of faith, recalling our departed loved ones would bring us nothing but sadness. We’d see their passing as “affliction” and “utter destruction” (Wisdom 3:2-3). There would be nothing beyond this life to offer us any consolation and encouragement—all we could really say is, “When you’re dead, you’re dead!”

But as Christians, we know that such an attitude has no place in our hearts. Especially today, on this feast of All Souls, God is inviting us to put aside sadness and share in his joy. As today’s first reading tells us, all those who have left this world in the friendship of God are in the hands of a loving Father. Sorrow and tears can no longer touch them; they are at peace now because all their questions have been answered, and they can live with Jesus forever.

Don’t let this day pass by as just another feast day! Take a moment to remember your friends, family members, and acquaintances who are no longer with you. If you can, try making a list of their names, and recall all the things you loved about each of them. Recall the kindnesses they showed you, and the times you laughed and cried together.

What we are reminded of today is that those who are already in the eternal presence of God and those who are still on pilgrimage on earth can help the group we call ‘Holy Souls’ to reach the Vision of God sooner through our good works and prayers. And so, although it is a “holy and wholesome thought to prayer for the dead”, it is especially appropriate on this day. Naturally, we will remember especially family members and good friends but we should also think of those who may not have anyone to remember them.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-1Jesus came not to abolish the Old Testament law but to fulfil it
And in today’s Gospel, He reveals that love—of God and of neighbour—is the fulfillment of the whole of the law

An authority on the Law of Moses gives Jesus a pop quiz: name the greatest commandment. Specifically, Jesus is to consider the 613 commandments found in the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah, and to select the cornerstone. But we know this is not a casual conversation among colleagues. Matthew reminds us that Jesus silenced the Sadducees, the priests who served at the Temple in Jerusalem. They asked their thorniest question about the Torah, and Jesus aced that test. Now it is the Pharisees’ turn.

The Pharisees were a sect within Judaism, which worked as a social movement seeking to change society with a greater faithfulness to following the Torah. The Pharisees in Jerusalem see Jesus’ growing influence on the crowds, and they seem to want to shut down this movement before it goes any further. The question then comes from a place not of wanting to learn but desiring to trip up the rabbi from Galilee. Jesus immediately answers with what is the most succinct statement of everything he taught and his every action: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

We are not just to love God, but our neighbour, and not just God and our neighbour, but we are to love ourselves, as only then can we love our neighbours as ourselves. Everything hangs on love.

The love Jesus is talking about here cost him his life, so this is love beyond mere sentimentality or emotion. Jesus teaches about the form of love that in Greek is called agape.

The love we are to have for God is a matter of heart, mind, and soul. While we think of “heart” normally in terms of affection, in the scriptures the heart is the centre of will, character, and conscience. Loving God is about deciding to put God first in our lives and to make our will conform to his will. From this experience, I reach out in love to others with the love that begins in the very life and nature of God.

So, Agape love is a decision, an act of the will. To decide to see others as God sees them. To act on this decision rather than just whether you feel the emotions of love. The love you have for others must start with God. We have to ask God to give us this gift. To pray for God to reveal the way God sees these other people in your life, especially the difficult people you deal with.

When trying to decide what to do, put agape into the equation. Should you forgive? Should you pick up the phone and make a call? Should you write a letter? Should you make a visit? The decision to forgive, or call, or write, or visit, or whatever it is that will make this love concrete should not depend alone on whether you have been hurt or could be hurt. The answer should depend on answering the question, “What would love do?”

This is how the ideal of loving God and loving your neighbour as yourself is made real. This love is a choice, a decision, an act of the will, and it belongs in the heart of your relationship with your spouse, your children, your parents, your siblings, your friends, your co-workers. Have the courage to not simply talk of love, but to put love into action. The love God has for you is patient and kind and will never fail. Choose to share that same amazing love with the people in your life.

We love in thanksgiving for our salvation. And in this become imitators of Jesus, as Paul tells us in today’s Epistle—laying down our lives daily in ways large and small, seen and unseen,

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-17In today’s Gospel Jesus and the religious leaders in Jerusalem continue their tense exchange of questions and challenges.

Two important political groups in Jerusalem—the Pharisees and the Herodians—are ganging up on Jesus. The Herodians; were supporters of Herod, the King of Israel who was a Roman lackey so they were supporters of the Romans. Then there were the Pharisees, who, as religious purists, would object to paying taxes especially to a king, like Caesar, who claimed to be of divine lineage. At the same time, the crowds, were watching. They didn’t like either the Romans or their taxes, and they frequently showed their dislike by rioting. They would be very unhappy at any answer that seemed to approve of the taxes. Finally, there are the soldiers, who were watching, Romans who were paid by the taxes in question. They didn’t much like the crowds, who had a penchant for rioting and whose rioting they had to control.

So, this was no abstract debate. The intent of the question was to ensure that Jesus was either arrested for treason by the Romans, discredited as a false teacher by the Pharisees, or the Herodians, or lynched by the crowd as a traitor to his own people.

Jesus slipped out of the trap. He asked for a coin. It’s a special minting of the denarius. On the coin is marked, “Tiberius Caesar, majestic son of divine Augustus, High Priest”. Below these words, the image of the emperor is pressed into the metal. To any good Jew, the coin itself violated the commandments by claiming that Caesar had divine pretensions, by containing an image of this false god.

A big part of what Jesus said was simply “give the thing back.” It could belong to no one but Caesar; it could certainly not belong to anyone who worshiped the God of Israel. This answer avoided the trap, and it allowed that particular tax to be paid with that particular coin—not as an act of political submission, but as a sign of religious fidelity. It was a very specific, and very narrow answer that made it possible for Jesus to escape the trap.

The coin belonged to Caesar because it was stamped with Caesar’s image and marked with Caesar’s inscription. The coin was made by the emperor for the emperor’s purposes. All that is a pretty good claim to ownership—a claim that Jesus recognized, for that coin.

The next question that flows from Jesus’ words is: “What, then, belongs to God?” Well, what is made in the image of God? What is stamped in the likeness of God and created for God’s purposes?

The sanctity of human life is a core Christian doctrine that derives from the Genesis 1 account of humankind being created in the image of God. Humankind is the image or ikon which represents God: every human being regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, age, or state of health. This is the basis of the prohibition of murder in the Ten Commandments. The incarnation of Christ and his redemptive death affirms the extraordinary value He places on each human life. This is our central characteristic, what it is that makes us human beings, is that we are created in the image of God. And what’s more, at our baptism we are further marked, we are stamped, we are inscribed, with the sign of the cross. Our image and likeness, and what is written upon us, is that of God himself. To whom, then, do we belong?

This, the question of our ultimate loyalty and our deepest allegiances, is what Jesus is really talking about. The Lord is saying simply that what belongs to God is nothing other than we ourselves. There is no higher claim and there can be no higher claim. Our lives are God’s, and all that we do is to be marked by that conviction. All competing claims for our lives and for our allegiance are to be evaluated and understood in the light of whose we are, and whose image we bear.

Give to God what is God’s—for God owns that which he has made in his image, and he is Lord over that which bears his inscription. It is that image, in ourselves and in others, that leads to concrete imperatives for justice, compassion, and righteousness. It is that image that both claims our allegiance and directs our efforts. It is God’s image that gives ultimate value and meaning to what we do. It is that image, and no other, we owe God everything. We owe Him our very lives—all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, we are called to be a light to the world working in faith, and in love, enduring in hope, as today’s Epistle teaches.

Certainly, give to Caesar the things that are Caesars—but give to God the things that are God’s. Don’t be everything; don’t have or hoard everything. Live your life mirroring how God created life: as a gift for the giving. That truth will transform us, allowing us to become agents of hope even in the darkest of times.

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

2-3Immediately after criticizing the religious leaders through the parable of the tenants in last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus proceeded to tell another parable, again directed at the religious leaders. We hear this parable in today’s Gospel.

Jesus offers an image of the kingdom of heaven using the symbol of a wedding banquet. In today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah and in today’s psalm, the Lord’s goodness is evident in the symbol of a feast of good food and wine. Jesus’ listeners would have been familiar with the image of a wedding feast as a symbol for God’s salvation. They would consider themselves to be the invited guests. Keeping this in mind helps us to understand the critique Jesus makes with this parable. The context for this parable is the growing tension between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem. This has been the case for the past two Sundays and will continue to be true for the next several weeks.

What may be hard for us to imagine is that the marriage contract negotiated was a financial contract between two men, the bride’s father and the groom. So, a man works out a deal with a woman’s father, and she is ordered to go and live with that man – someone she may not even have met. After a period of a year or more, the man decides that this is working out, and he and his contractual partner (not his bride, her father) lays on a feast.

And pretty much everyone would come. In those days, ordinary people owned two changes of clothing: your regular, everyday work clothes; and a festive garment, a wedding robe – something that you kept clean and unwrinkled. And most people did not own much more. When the messengers came to invite you to a marriage, or you heard that bell ring – you would just pen up your sheep, drop your weaving, whatever; run home and put on your wedding garment; and go to the party.

If you live in Galilee or Bethlehem, you knew that to come to a wedding feast was to wear a wedding garment. So, this parable, which seems harsh – after all, someone is thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth for wearing the wrong clothes. But perhaps this parable is about participation, or the lack of doing it fully. There is the first group, who simply decline the invitation. And then there is the guy without the wedding robe, who refused to participate completely. If you were you the king, you would feel snubbed and insulted by these people and if you had the power, you might send those who offended you to the outer darkness. Or at least, you’d be tempted to.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. This is a parable, remember. An analogy of the Kingdom of Heaven, a story of the way God acts in the world.

God has invited us to be partners in the building up of that kingdom, on earth as in heaven. And this omnipotent God, who could reign down fire from heaven and smite us where we sit – this God does not act like the king in today’s story, although he could. God does not enforce the dress code or punish us for not participating fully.

Instead, our God invites us again and again, over and over. We are called to that feast of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. The feast at which the disgrace of the people will be taken away from the earth, when God will wipe away the tears from all faces.

You, me and every person on this planet are welcome at this table.
When God is the host, everyone is invited. Sadly, as in today’s parable, not everyone comes – but everyone is invited.

When God is the host, the food is rich beyond our imagination or understanding. Sometimes it appears to be quite simple – like bread and wine – yet we can be profoundly moved and transformed by this feast. When God is the host, we are nourished not just for the morning, but for the journey. And when God is the host, everyone gets the same gift: the amazingly abundant, undeserved, and inexhaustible gift of love.

Jesus’ message in the parable cautions against exclusive beliefs about the kingdom of heaven. The parable also teaches about humility. Those who assume that they are the invited guests may find that they have refused the invitation, and so others are invited in their place. To accept the invitation is also to accept its obligations. God wants our full conversion in complete acceptance of his mercy.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2017 in Uncategorized