Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

First Sunday of Advent – December 3, 2017

Isaiah 63: 16b-17, 19b; 64:2-71 Corinthians 1: 3-9Mark 13: 33-37

 

A benefit of a New Year is that it represents a fresh start. We can all easily think of there solutions that are made for the New Year which begins on January 1. As we are also aware, those resolutions easily fade away after a rather brief time. The First Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a New Year in the life of the Church. It is a new beginning in the consideration of what is offered to us, what we possess by faith in God and faith in God’s presence with us. In many situations we may have done well in living out that faith and in the practice of that faith. An honest assessment by any of us, however, will let us know that we can all do better.

 

It was with this thought in mind, the idea of doing better, that suggested my consideration of how we might mark the “New Year’ of the Church. We first heard inspired words from the prophet, Isaiah. The very end of that particular passage contained a familiar image: we are clay who are molded and formed by God, a potter. There was another phrase in that passage, however, that led me to pause and to reflect: “would that you might meet us doing right.” Would that we might be known, not only by God, but by others, by the fact that we live out our lives “doing right.” Would that any one of us might be known and experienced, day after day, by how the love the goodness, and the mercy of God is evident in us. That, indeed, is the challenge that is raised to us as we consider the decisions and choices we make in speaking and acting during the course of any given day.

 

As we begin a New Year, and resolve to begin again a genuine effort to live out our faith, it is necessary, as Jesus admonishes us, to be watchful and on guard. We are to look out for any and all opportunities when God’s presence can be made known through us. It is in this way that the presence of God can be known and experienced in our world – by starting with us.

 

We need to realize, as St. Paul tells us today, what it means to be “enriched in every way.” It is in the manner that we give witness to Jesus Christ and his revelation that is confirmed in the way in which we live daily.

 

If, indeed we want that presence of God to be more evident in our world and in our lives, then we need to look at ourselves, examine words we speak, actions we do, the attitudes we assume and reflect. We must be willing to challenge ourselves and make what changes are required. We must live out in our lives the true peace we seek. We must become in our words and actions the non-violence we desire. We must affirm the uniqueness each of us possesses as images of our creator God. We must uphold and confirm the dignity and the worth of all lives.

 

With the beginning of a New Year that we, as Church recall on this First Sunday of Advent, we are called to renew our effort to be watchful and alert in all ways. This we do so that we may truly be found to be “doing right in our lives” by our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Christ the King – November 26, 2017

Exekiel 34: 11-12, 15-171 Corinthians 15: 20-26Matthew 25: 31-46

Different calendars are simply a part of life – whether they are on a wall, in our pocket, on our phones. Of course, there is what we might call the normal calendar that goes from January to December. So many things are based on those dates, including income tax. The Federal Government’s fiscal calendar goes from October to October. We know that the fiscal calendar used by many businesses goes from July to July. Thus, it is not all that different or unusual that the Church has its own calendar. This calendar follows a cycle which begins next week with the First Sunday of Advent and concludes its year with this feast which honors Jesus Christ asUniversal King.

 

This thought came to mind: is recognizing Jesus Christ as King a statement of fact, or ought it be a question that is posed to us daily. We have spent the past twelve months recalling God’s entry into our world in the person of Jesus Christ; his ministry followed by his betrayal and execution; his triumphal defeat of death in hisResurrection to which we are all joined by our baptism; and then,weekly, as a believing community founded by the Apostles and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, we have listened to God’s message to us through inspired writers and, particularly, Saint Matthew. Now we are at the point of the conclusion of this cycle. So we might ask, is Jesus Christ truly “King” in our lives? Have the values, the teachings Jesus Christ proclaimed, taken hold and had an effect in the decisions and acts that influence our daily lives?

 

As a review, in a sense, we heard today what that truly effective presence ought to mean for us, how that effective presence ought to take hold and influence what we think, what we say, what we do. Ezechiel, an Old Testament prophet, spoke in a rather straightforward fashion. He addressed the failure of the leadership of the Chosen People of the Old Covenant. These were the sleek and strong that had neglected the needs that were around them. God, in the vision of Ezekiel, would enter in and intervene, described in the image of a shepherd. God would bring back the lost, bind up the injured, and heal the sick. This image is presented to us to remind us the presence of God in our lives with a loving care and mercy available to us.

 

In the imagery then employed by Jesus, this purpose of God is not abstract. It is to be carried on by us. The vision of the prophet of old is to be made real and active in the world through us. There is no other way of understanding what Jesus clearly states. The assessment, the evaluation, the judgment of our personal sincerity in being part of the ministry, the work, the reign of Christ the King is determined by the manner in which we effectively recognize the needs

 

not of ourselves but of those around us. It is measured by how we use whatever means available to us, living in our society today, to address the hungry, the thirsty, the foreign, the naked, the old, and those imprisoned by addiction, by violence or in so many other ways in their lives.

 

We can respond to this call. We can resolve effectively to act in and by ourselves because, as Saint Paul reminds us today, we are one with Christ who overcame death itself. There is no insurmountable object. Noting is impossible. We can overcome anything and everything that might see to control or defeat us. We can move beyond that self-focused, self-directed attitude that ultimately results in the death of our nature as images of God.

 

Is Christ the King of our lives? Is Christ and his revelation of God the central focus of the values and the outlook we possess? Do we, in union with Christ our King continue his ministry of revealing to our world in and through ourselves, the reality and the truth of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Thirty-Third Sunday of the Year – November 19, 2017

Proverbs 31: 10-13, 19-29, 30-311 Thessalonians 5: 1-6Matthew 25: 14-15, 19-21

Yesterday afternoon the wedding of Katherine O’Meara and William Gerken was celebrated here at St. Mel. In preparation for the ceremony, Kate and Bill selected, among others, the very same passage from the Book of Proverbs which we have just heard, the description of the “worthy wife.” In the context of a wedding ceremony, it is a very appropriate passage. A suggestion that I make, however, in reflecting on this passage, is that what is said of the wife is equally to be applied to the husband. Both spouses are called upon to be “worthy.” Each is to recognize and to share with one another the unfailing prize of self.

The insight offered by the author of these words is not to be limited to an application of marriage. A much deeper understanding is to be found, a much larger context is intended. Like much of the prophetic and wisdom teaching of the Old Testament, the intimate relationship that is to exist between God and God’s people, between God and ourselves, is to be viewed in terms of the ideal marriage: a relationship that is committed, faithful, enduring and permanent.

In the context of what we have heard today from this Scriptural passage, it is God who can be understood as the husband, whose heart, so to speak, has been entrusted to the people. It is God’s people, it is us, who are to be seen in the terms used to describe the “worthy wife.” All that is said about the worthy wife is to be said about us. We are the ones who are to proclaim to the world the value of the committed, faithful enduring relationship that exists between God and ourselves.

It is with these considerations in mind that we can hear the first part of the parable spoken by Jesus. God is the owner who has entrusted to each of us the vast wealth of life itself. All of us, like the servant in the story, are expected by the owner, our loving God, to have the will and the creativity to take what has been entrusted to us in our lives and invest this possession in such a way that its value and worth increase significantly through our efforts.

What Jesus proclaimed, what he taught, and what we profess to be our belief is Good News, a Gospel that is not static. It is genuinely dynamic. This message, this teaching about God and our relationship with God and with one another, is to be transformative. It is to be effective. It is to impact our lives and the lives of others through us. This faith is to be lived out

in specific ways, as the example of the worthy wife illustrates. It is to display loving hands caring for the needs of the home and reaching out to those outside the home who are in need. This faith is to be lived out by us as we are, as children of the light, children of the day. We do not live in fear of the unknown, but with a conviction that knows and lives in the presence of the Lord with us.

The dynamic life of a married couple is a sacrament. Their love for one another is to be a revelation of the love of God for us. So too are we, as Church, as the living Body of Christ in our world, a sacrament. Each of us is to be, as part of this Body of Christ, a vibrant revelation in our daily lives of the active and loving presence of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Thirty-Second Sunday of the Year – November 12, 2017

Wisdom 6: 12-161 Thessalonians 4: 13-14 Matthew 25: 1-13

 

I frequently make the suggestion to others, and often remind myself as well, to pray for wisdom. It is not a request that some sort of package of wisdom be infused from on high as a magical solution to some problem or situation. Rather, it is an earnest prayer to make use of abilities, to use insights gained, to use experiences, to clear away the distractions that often cloud the judgment that leads to an unwillingness to recognize the reality that is present to act accordingly.

This is apparent in the parable thatJesus told about the wise and the foolish virgins. What do the foolish young ladies in the story do, or not do? They did not think ahead. They did not prepare themselves for what they were called upon to do. They did not anticipate that there might be a delay, that they needed to be properly supplied. They were caught more, it would seem, in the thrill of the moment, their role in the wedding,their appearance perhaps, or the festivities to come. These distractions hindered them from the most important part of their duty: to accompany the groom as he brought his bride to his home.

 

On the other hand, the wise young ladies, the ones who exercised wisdom, may well have been equally thrilled with what they were to do. But they also gave the matter forethought. They recognized their need to be prepared for any eventuality. They did not allow these same distractions to affect their need to be prepared, to be ready for whatever might happen.

 

A prayer to achieve wisdom ought to be a part of our daily activities as human beings. This is especially true of a person who is committed to faith in God and faith in Jesus Christ. Wisdom is not something lofty or beyond. In the clever insight of the author we heard, it is at the gate, it is readily present. Wisdom is a reflection on our human experience, what we have learned by ourselves and from others. It gives an honest and solid perspective of what is involved in life and in living. Wisdom not only acknowledges the reality of God – something basic to true and honest living – it also recognizes that the God of our faith is present and available to us. It is the context of our faith that also reveals that our God is loving and merciful.

 

Wisdom, too, acknowledges that the inherent abilities we, and all human creatures of God, possess to reflect our Creator God. This we are to do in the respect and the dignity we accord to ourselves and to others. It is the same love and mercy that is essential to what we are as images of God.

 

So often we allow the distractions of the moment to interfere with genuine wisdom being present and effective in us. Distractions may be pride, or envy, or the desire to hurt or diminish another, or selfishness, or whatever we might do to make ourselves look better to the detriment of other. These are things we do in words or actions, or just in thought.

 

In a way, St. Paul was also pointing out the wisdom of the faith that the Thessalonians needed to have. They were allowing the natural grief at the time of the loss of those who died to be a controlling factor in their lives. This distracted them from the meaning of the faith they professed. It was faith in Jesus Christ who had also died, but who overcame death and rose from the grave. He calls all of us to share in the full meaning of eternal life in union with God. This same faith is ours and ought to be found active and present in us. It is to affect how live and how we act every day.

 

Wisdom is that balance of living in this wold convinced and assured of the love and mercy of God. It is making that love and mercy evident in our vision of life. This is the oil that is to light the lamps of our lives. Filled with this oil we are to enlighten our world that is so darkened by human tragedies. We are to enlighten our world through ourselves with the presence and meaning of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Thirtieth Sunday of the Year – October 29, 2017

Exodus 22: 20-26 1 Thessalonians 1: 5c-10 Matthew 22: 34-40

 

At every celebration of Mass, after saying the “Our Father” together, and before we exchange a greeting of peace in preparation for sharing in the Eucharist, I lead us all in a prayer that has long had particular meaning for me. In that prayer, our gracious God is asked “look not on our sins.” We ask God not to consider the many ways in which we have failed or diminished how we might reflect our loving God in our lives. We go on to ask God to look “on our faith,” to consider the efforts that we make to live out our beliefs, to put these beliefs into practice each day.

 

As much as this makes a demand on us, we pray this with trust and with confidence that our gracious God will surround us and join us together as an assembly of believers, as a Church, in peace and in unity. This is a powerful prayer. It is a prayer that expresses the hope that our faith, and the living of that faith, will have more meaning and purpose in our relationship with God and, especially, in our relationships with one another – all others – in our daily lives.

 

I offer this thought for consideration today because of what we can understand from the teaching of Jesus to which we have listened. What we have heard from the Scriptures is put before us both clearly and simply. The whole of our relationship with God is summarized in simple rules for living: love God, love neighbor. We know this. We have hard this. We have repeated this. But, do we live this?

 

To declare that we love God without loving our neighbor fully, completely, and in an unqualified way, means we are wiling to love God only on our terms, only in our own way, and not in the way that is revealed by Jesus Christ. To love our neighbor without loving or acknowledging God, greatly reduces the dignity of our neighbor, denies that the neighbor is an image of God our creator. It truly says that our neighbor has no real value. It does not respect the neighbor and thus is not a genuine love of the neighbor for what he or she is and can be. These teachings go hand in hand. Both must be known, believed and lived.

 

If there is a question of how one must love one’s neighbor, we can recall that Jesus responded to this question on one occasion by tell telling the moving parable of the Good Samaritan. Today, however, we heard very clear words from the Book of Exodus. These are comments made on what the commandments, the covenant with God, means in very practical terms. We are to treat all people, in every way, with honor, dignity, fairness, justice and respect. We are to do this in every dealing we have with one another.

 

Paul pointed out to the Thessalonians, as we also heard, that their value ad dignity as believers came from the manner in which they lived out their faith despite rejection and persecution. It is to be the same for us.

 

To achieve the peace and unity that we pray for us as Church, to achieve the peace and unity as people living in this vast and diverse world, we must, effectively and clearly, understand and live out the teaching of Jesus, stated so simply and directly. We must do this to the full extent of the meaning of those teachings. We must do this in all that they require, in all the selflessness they express. There are no short cuts. There are no qualifications if we are to be honest In our commitment of faith as Christians. Truly and genuinely loving God and neighbor is the manner in which we reflect – in peace and unity – what it is for us and for our world the will of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Twenty-Ninth Sunday of the Year – October 22, 2017

Isaiah 45: 1, 4-6 1 Thessalonians 1-5b Matthew 22: 15-21

 

Of the numerous sayings of Jesus that have become familiar and often repeated in various contexts and situations, the one which ended the Gospel passage which was just heard today – “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” – has to rank near the top of the list. Yet, as easily as we can read through these words, or hear them repeated, we can just as easily miss some subtleties that are present.

 

For example, it is the disciples of the Pharisees, strict observers of the law, who are paired up with Herodians, Jews who were much more politically connected and minimally religious. This is a strange combination to confront Jesus. Then when they are asked to produce a coin, they do so. That, too, is a bit of a problem, especially for the strict observers among them. The coin was emblematic of the oppressing and despised authority, Rome.

 

Then there is the issue of the “image” to which Jesus refers. The “graven image” and the inscription are matters that are strictly forbidden in the Commandments and in Jewish practice. But it is this “image” which is central to the discussion and central to the trap they are trying to set for Jesus. There are, in other words, a lot of things that are rather wrong in this whole incident.

 

I would like to suggest that we focus our thoughts on the matter of the “image.” Jesus answers their question quite simply. If Caesar’s image is on the coin, then give it back to Caesar, that is, pay the tax. If it belongs to the despised Roman authority, return it to that authority. But there is a second part of that saying – “and to God what is God’s.” What would be a parallel image of God that is to be returned to God? Where is that image to be found? From the very beginning of the understanding of human nature, the very beginning of creation, what was understood from the earliest Scriptures, is that we – humans – are the ones made in the image and likeness of God. The image of God is not found on a coin, or in some statue, or in some brute animal. The image of God is to be found in us. The totality of ourselves and of our lives is what is to be properly devoted to God, the source of life, our source and our Creator.

 

The return of a meager coin in payment of a tax is of little significance in the full meaning of what Jesus is saying. It is the return of our lives, the reflection of the image of God in ourselves, that is so much more meaningful and important in this story.

 

How God can be known and experienced often goes far beyond our limited view and expectations. That important reminder is found in the words of Isaiah which have also been heard today. Who was the instrument of the restoration of the defeated Chosen people of old? It was Cyrus, the Persian, the pagan king and emperor. He was the Iranian who would salvage Israel. That has a modern ring to it as well. Indeed, God’s ways are not our ways!

 

How God is present and active in our lives is often beyond our limited and selfish comprehension. Paul reminds the Thessalonians of this as well. It was not his own human preaching that had inspired them. It was the experience of the Holy Spirit of God that they had allowed to be active in their lives. It is that same Holy Spirit that we must allow to be active in our lives as well.

 

Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. It is a familiar and wellworn statement. It is, indeed, a challenge made to us. It is a challenge to be that reflection, that image, of God in our lives, sometimes in unexpected ways. It is a challenge to give ourselves back totally to God, not hindering what God can do for us in the person of Jesus Christ and in the action of the Holy Spirit. It is a challenge to us to make known, day after day, the truth and reality found in us who have been made in the image and likeness of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Twenty-Eighth Sunday of the Year – October 15, 2017

Isaiah 25: 6-10a Phillipians 4: 12-14 Matthew 22: 1-14

 

An on-going struggle or challenge which was present during the ministry of Jesus involved efforts that he made to convey a correct understanding of the nature of God and, especially, of the relationship that God seeks with us. In the Gospel of Saint John, for example, there are recorded regular conflicts between Jesus and the Pharisees. The other gospels recall similar matters.  We frequently hear Jesus directing his message to the elders, the scribes, the teachers and leaders of the people as he wanted them to realize how they were falling short in their responsibilities. Thus he often challenged them to understand that the relationship with God was more than superficial.

 

We must remember that for ourselves and in our Faith, Jesus is not just some sort of outstanding teacher or a type of wise man. In the Incarnational faith we declare, God became man in Jesus Christ. What we experience in the teachings of Jesus is another effort on the part of God to being us into a deeper appreciation of God’s desire to be joined with us in a loving relationship.

 

This is the context in which we can hear the beautiful insight, the poetic message, of Isaiah. On this mountain, on this height, where God can be encountered away from the distractions and temptation of our day to day world, we experience God at a banquet, a celebration with God that nourishes and sustains us. God’s presence is revealed to us, not in power, conquest, fear, or intimidation, but in the rich foods and fine wines of a joyous feast. It is an overflowing demonstration of the joy and celebration of God’s abiding love.

 

It is this same imagery which provides the framework used by Jesus to describe “the kingdom of Heaven.” The reign of God with us, the totality of the experience of God in life, is to be seen as a rich and abundant banquet to which we are invited, The total manifestation of God’s love and care for us is offered to us.

 

How is that invitation received by those described in the parable and by us? Some cannot be bothered, others have something better to do, still others have somewhere else to go. These are rude responses, much like Jesus often received during his ministry from the leaders of the people, the elders, the scribes and the teachers.

 

But God’s love is not thwarted. It continues to reach out for a response. It is extended to those who are open, who are willing to listen and to respond. These are not the ones who were really considered as “desirable.” They were quite the opposite – the disreputable. The love of God for mankind, which we are called to reflect in our lives, is not restricted in any way, especially by human, judgmental attitudes..

 

But the story also continues. A response that is evident and sincere must be made. It is to be a response that is genuine and committed. It is a response that is to reflect a newness of life, a wedding garment that replaces what has gone on before.

 

The totality and the generosity of God’s love for mankind is central to the message of the ministry of Jesus. It is found not only in his teaching, but also in his death and resurrection. It is continued in his presence with us in the Eucharist and the other Sacraments we celebrate in our lives. It is to this totality and generosity what we are called to respond by transforming ourselves with a wedding garment of a newness of life. This “wedding garment” is to be shown in our words and action, day to day and every day, in a continuation of the ministry of Jesus as Church, proclaiming to the world our faith and our commitment to our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Twenty-Seventh Sunday of the Year – October 8, 2017

Isaiah 5: 1-7 Philippians 4: 6-9 Matthew 21: 33-43

Our minds and our imaginations can often be quite creative, even fantastic. This is especially true in the effort to appreciate and understand the vastness and complexity of the universe around us. Scenarios are developed, creatures of different sorts are imagine. We need only think of productions like Star Wars and Star Trek. Why does this happen? Because we are easily fascinated by what we have been given in being alive and living those lives in this vast complexity that surrounds us, one which we have really probed in a very limited way.

There are so many things that appear to escape our understanding, and especially in how we ought to respond to that understanding that we, in many ways, prefer to dwell on the fantastic rather than the simple. Especially is this true with respect to the idea that the source of this great universe, the created reality around us, truly loves us. Time and time again we need to be reminded of this. We need also to be reminded of the need on, our part to respond gratefully and generously to this loving relationship that is extended to us.

Even though we can often allow our imaginations to run wild about creation, simple images are those which are most direct. They are a basic and common part of our experience as human beings. These simple images can be, on the one hand, the rancher, the shepherd. On the other hand, a simple image is found in the farmer, the owner of a vineyard. They are simple images but they are also the basic resources of how we are fed and sustained. For this reason, they enable us to appreciate the depth of the love of our God for us. They illustrate to us how the God of our universe reaches out to us in very ordinary ways in order to care for us and to love us.

The poetic beauty of the prophet Isaiah rings out clearly in what we have heard today. The world, creation, is like a vineyard. It is a reality that is planted and cultivated so that it might produce what gives joy and peace. Humanity are the grapes of that vineyard that are to grow and produce. But grapes can also fail and rot. We know that well enough from plants in our own gardens which do not live up to our expectations. But the owner, the vineyard keeper, like God, persists.

Jesus makes use of the image of the vineyard, but with a conclusion that differs. He focuses his attention on the behavior of the tenant farmers. But, within that story, we are told of the consistent effort of the owner, of God, to reach out to the tenants. Messengers are sent, even the Son, to convey God’s care and concern. Thus we are reminded within this story of God’s desire to reach out to us, despite our often neglectful reaction. God continuously calls upon us to respond in a fruitful and productive manner.

The images used by Jesus are not fantastic or fanciful. They tell us of a simple reality. Despite the vastness and mystery of the universe in which we live, we are loved by our God, its source, its creator. We are so loved, as we are told, that in the person of Jesus Christ, our God, once more, seeks to be with us, to do “more” on our behalf. What is to be our response? We are to be that pleasing, peaceful refreshing product. Is that how you or I might be described today?

To gain a better appreciation of what we are to be, we can listen to Saint Paul as he addresses the Christians at Philippi and us. We are to demonstrate in our lives whatever is pure, whatever is gracious, whatever is excellent, whatever is worthy of praise. We are to do what we have learned and what we have received in this Faith we profess. It is in this way, in the vineyard of the world in which we live, the vineyard that needs so desperately the fine wine of our lives lived well, that we will produce the abundant and refreshing revelation of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Twenty-Sixth Sunday of the Year – A October 1, 2017

Ezekiel 18: 25-26 Philippians 2: 1-5 Matthew 21: 28-32

At times when I read over the communication we received from God in the Scriptures read when we gather at the Eucharist, I ask myself what word might offer a good summary of what is heard. This week an answer came quite quickly. The word was “smarmy.” It may not be a familiar word, but it is defined as: “ingratiating and wheedling in a way that is perceived as insincere or excessive.” This describes well, at least to me, the second son in the example given by Jesus. It is as if he said: “Sure, Dad, I’ll take care of that. I’ll get right on it.” He said all of the right things and did nothing about it. I can easily envision him as one who was all smiles and charm. He had the right words. He was all talk and no action. For those of my era, who recall the televison show “Leave It to Beaver,” he was a regular “Eddie Haskell.”

In the example that Jesus presents, our reaction would probably be that we do not really care for the first son. He seems to have a real attitude. He is blunt and disrespectful., But, in the end, he gets the job done. That fact, getting the job done, as those who Jesus addressed acknowledge, was the real bottom line. What needed to be done was done.

There is, however, another aspect to this example, to this question posed by Jesus. It is an even more significant element to the story and our consideration of it. Stated simply, no one is beyond redemption. No one is beyond making a change. No one is beyond accomplishing in life that very basic identity we all have to be true reflections of God in whose image we are made.

As we hear Jesus, he also is quite blunt. Tax collectors and prostitutes, the very lowest of the low, the dregs of society, were often written off as beyond redemption. Jesus tells the rather smug leaders and teachers of his time that these supposedly disreputable persons are the ones who are willing to hear him, to listen to his call and to live their lives in response to that call.

Jesus is reflecting the thoughts that were expressed at another time by the prophet Ezekiel. Everyone, each individual, is responsible for his or her own actions. The worst sinner can undertake personal reform and change his or her own life. It is this reform that is important and will benefit the individual in the end. On the other hand, a person who has been seemingly virtuous throughout life can change and abandon that virtuosity. Negative results will occur. It  is the person who has acted, it the person who has freely decided for good or for ill.

It is not words, it is action. It is not prominence or position, it is whether that situation is properly used. It is not wealth or possessions, it is how the opportunities offered are employed.

St. Paul makes it clear to the Christians at Philippi and to us. We are encouraged in Christ. We take solace and comfort based on the love of God. We participate in the life of the Spirit. It is because of this that we are to regard all others as more important than ourselves. Each of us is to look out, not for our own interest, but for the interests of others. It is in this way that we are to have the same attitude that is Christ Jesus in actions and not just in words. This is the particular opportunity we have this week and next in responding to the needs of those devastated by Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, and the earthquake in Mexico through support of Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Relief Services. This is the way that we reveal to ourselves and to others the truth and the reality of our good and gracious God.

Fr. Fedor's Homily Notes

Twenty-Fifth Sunday of the Year – September 24, 2017

Isaiah 55: 6-9 Philippians 1: 20c-24 Matthew 20: 1-16a

I have frequently considered the parable told by Jesus, to which we have just listened, to be one of the more difficult ones we hear from him. It appears to challenge some of the understanding we might have about what is just or correct. Of the many parables or stories that Jesus surely used during his ministry, only St. Matthew includes this particular one in his account of the Good News, the teaching of Jesus.

We might ask why, in the larger context of Matthew’s Gospel. account, he judged that this parable of Jesus fit into his framework about how a community of believers in Jesus Christ can appreciate the revelation of the nature and presence of God with us.

What gives us some insight into the importance of this story, I believe, are a few of the words spoken by the landowner. He had promised to pay the first ones he hired the “usual daily wage.” To the ones he hired later, he said he would pay “what is just.” He did not even discuss pay with the last ones he hired. The “usual; daily wage” was basically the standard amount that was needed to get by. It was what those who were hired could justly expect for a day’s work.

In the imagery of Christ’s revelation of God to us, we can recognize that God provides to us, and to our lives, our individual capabilities, what makes us up,what we are. Jesus is teaching us that God provides what is sufficient for anyone of us to live out our lives. If we use what we are and what we have been given, then we have all that we really need. It may not be a great deal, at least by a material measurement. We may often think we need more, but envy or jealousy of those who have otherwise is really pointless.

What this story, as it continues, reveals to us is that no matter when and how the relationship with God has been established in our lives, no matter whatever way any one of us accepted the invitation to live and work in the world in a union, a partnership, with our loving God, we can be assured of possessing all we need to live and grow, all that is sufficient for this loving relationship, no matter what we might encounter.

In other words, if any of our lives seem to be more difficult or challenging, if they seem to be too burdensome than others we know seem to be experiencing, it is not the unwillingness of God to extend a loving relationship to us, rather it is a self-centered and self-indulgent perception on our part – not unlike the first workers hired by the landowner. It is a perception that thinks I deserve more. It is a perception that defeats the possibility of a genuine growth as a person and as a reflection of God.

This is all a part of an important understanding we heard both from the prophet Isaiah and from Jesus in the Gospel passage. Very simply, it is this: God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, God’s ways are not our ways. Put in a different way, none of us have cornered the market on how things ought to be, especially in contrast to how the Creator of all life intends things to be,

Thus, for any one of us, actually for all of us, the challenge of our faith, the true test of our commitment in faith is to adopt the thinking of Paul. In dire circumstances, perhaps even in prison because of his preaching, Paul says that the most important point is not whether he lives or dies, but whether he was acting in a way worthy of the Gospel, the Good News of Christ. For us that means that we are to live in such a way as to make known in the parables of our own lives the truth and the reality of our good and gracious God.