The living stone

Today’s readings center around the image of the vineyard. In the first reading,the prophet Isaiah sings of his friend who gives all his love and care for his vineyardand looks forward to an abundant harvest. The friend is sorely disappointed, when at harvest time the vineyard yields only sour grapes. The song tragically ends with the owner destroying his vineyard.

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Yes, Lord!

Today we are presented with another parable which is as intriguing as last Sunday’s. It tells of two sons whose response to their father’s order is totally opposite of the other. When the first son was asked by the father to go to work in the field, he said no, but eventually changed his mind and went. Instead, when the second son received the same order from the father, he said yes, but did not go.

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God’s thoughts and ways

Today’s gospel is again one of those difficult passages that can pose be a veritable challenge to every homilist. The parable tells of a landowner who, at different hours of the day, hires laborers to work in his vineyard. To each of them he promises to pay a just wage. At the end of the day, he pays everyone the same amount, prompting angry protest from those who began work early.

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Forgiveness

Today’s readings center on the all-important theme of forgiveness. Forgiveness lies at the very heart of Christian living. It is the acid test of true discipleship. Jesus tells us that if our love does go beyond those who love us and reach our enemies, we are no different from the sinners. And because forgiveness is at the core of discipleship, it is a constant, a default in our daily life.

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Fraternal correction

The common theme that runs through today’s readings is our responsibility for one another and, in particular, our duty of fraternal correction.

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The cross

Today, we continue the gospel reading of last Sunday, wherein Jesus acknowledged Peter as the “rock” on which he would build his Church. After just a few verses, the scene changed completely. JesussharplyrebukedPeter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

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A gospel of gifts

In today’s gospel, we find Jesus in Caesarea Philippi, a territory predominantly inhabited by pagans and a home to many ancient religions. In this place littered with temples of Syrian and Graeco-Roman gods, Jesus asked his apostles, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?… Who do you say that I am?” This was a dramatic moment when against the backdrop of a diverse display of world religions, Jesus wanted to know if those closest to him knew who he really was.

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Friends of Jesus

Every year there are a few gospel readings that are truly difficult to interpret and can give the homilist a veritable nightmare. Today’s gospel is one of them. Jesus’ behaviour towards the Canaanite woman is so uncharacteristic of him that it puzzles us, to say the least. The woman’s humble plea for Jesus to heal her daughter who was tormented by a demon was met with silence, then a rebuff (“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”) and finally an outright insult (“It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs”). In the end, the woman’s persistence and unwavering faith prevailed and obtained for her the miracle from Jesus.

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God cares

Our gospel reading on Sunday opened with the news of the cruel death of John the Baptist in the hands of Herod. On hearing this, Jesus wanted to be by himself and grieve for his cousin. He took a boat with his disciples and crossed the lake to a deserted place. No sooner had he stepped out of the boat than he was met by a large crowd of people bringing their sick. The gospel tells us that upon seeing them, “[Jesus’] heart was moved with pity for them, and he healed their sick.”

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True Value

We conclude our reading of Matthew 13 with its last four parables about the kingdom of God. In our reflection, I wish to focus on the two parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price. They are parallel stories and convey the same message. The first tells of a man who discovered a hidden treasure in a field and sold everything he had to buy the field. The second parable is about a merchant who found a pearl of surpassing value and sold all his pearls to buy the one fine pearl.

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