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This Week's Homily - October 1, 2017

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The Second Reading for today puts the challenge of the Gospel into a wonderful context for us:

In the Gospel parable for today, Jesus is challenging the religious, self-righteous who claim that they are serving God by their observance of the law, but fail to accept God enfleshed in Jesus.  Even more seriously, they reject Jesus for his preferential option for those who first by their lifestyles rejected God’s ways…be they tax collectors or prostitutes or adulterers…and then after encountering God’s mercy in Jesus, changed their ways and became his disciples treating others mercifully as they were treated by Jesus.  The Jewish leaders are set on trapping Jesus and rendering judgment on his words and deed.  But in effect, they end up condemning themselves.  For the self-righteous, they had no time or desire to reach out to sinners who needed mercy and compassion and love.  The self-righteous religious leaders were so absorbed in judging sinners that they could not even contemplate treating sinners with mercy and compassion in an effort to bring them to conversion.  In fact, the point of Ezekiel’s challenge to the Jewish people he served is that they accept responsibility for their lives and situation, and then turn to God for forgiveness, rather than blaming God for their hardships.  God doesn’t hold grudges as people do!

          In our preparatory prayers before the Eucharist, we pray that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God the Almighty Father.  The work of Christ and his attitudes must become our offering and sacrifice as well as the offering of the simple gifts of bread and wine to God who transforms them and gives back to us as Jesus’ body and blood.  We must not simply recollect and have faith in Christ’s obedient sacrifice; we must imitate it and be transformed by it!  Our prayer cannot be just a ritual formula, but the expression of our determination to enflesh in our words and deeds the loving mercy and compassion we receive in this Eucharist.  Loving words, no matter how eloquent or persuasive, are meaningless without our loving actions to follow.  If we are not here to be nourished by our Lord who loves us more than he loved himself and let that love heal our wounds that keep us trapped in misery, and are determined to be sent forth from this Mass to find tangible ways to share that love, then we are no better than the tax collectors and Pharisees.  And those we detest like homosexuals and drug addicts and murderers and robbers and terrorists and the drunk driver with three previous DUIs who killed my brother Joe who encounter Jesus’ unconditional love and forgiveness, and share the love and forgiveness they receive with everyone like the tax collectors and prostitutes of Jesus’ time are going to heaven ahead of those who don’t put into action the love and forgiveness they receive.