Letters from a Pastor to His People

A kingdom for a party.

Dear Parishioners,

We might be tempted to think, upon reading Christ's parable this weekend, “Um, I think the King has a bit of an anger issue.” Here's the parable in a nutshell. The King invites guests to his son's wedding reception and none of them attend. So, we read: “The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city” (Matt 22:7). But wait, it gets better (or worse). The King instead invites beggars and random people off the street to attend the reception. These people accept the invitation, but when the king spots one of the new guests not wearing appropriate attire, he flies off the handle. “[The King] said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‹Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth›” (Matt 22:12-13).

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Anxiety Antidote

Dear Parishioners,

I think the opening line from St. Paul's letter to the Philippians deserves a citation: “Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).

I guess we aren't the only age that experiences anxiety. People 2,000 years ago were filled with worry and anxiety as well. In fact, they probably had more cause for anxiety than we. Food was much more difficult to come by, sickness and disease much more prevalent, and death a constant companion.

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Tale of Two Sons

Dear Parishioners,

Our Lord's parables are challenging. They force us to examine ourselves. Because, you see, the parables are spoken at us. Jesus did not just speak to the crowds 2,000 years ago. He speaks to us today, and the parables—his way of speaking—contain messages that we need to apply in our lives. In order to apply the parable we need to examine ourselves. It's in this process of interior reflection that we see we are far from perfect and that we need conversion, hence the challenge of the parables.

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Late to the faith never too late.

Dear Parishioners,

As the Bears get set to play the Packers this Thursday I take great consolation in the last line from today's Gospel: “Thus, the last will be first and the first will be last” (Matt 20:16). The Bears have been "last" a lot of late, while the Packers have been "first." Enjoy it now, Cheeseheads. Our time is coming.

But this isn't what I want to focus on this week. Jesus gives us the parable about the workers who are brought in at different parts of the day to labor in the field. They all receive the same wage. The ones who work eight hours receive the same pay as the ones who work one hour.

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Love it or hate it, there's no denying it.

Dear Parishioners,

Ah, the cross! We love it and we hate it. The cross hangs proudly, front and center, in our churches. We wear it on our chests, display it in our homes, and dangle it from our rearview mirrors in our cars. Young people tattoo it on their bodies. And yet, we despise suffering. We beg God to take away our crosses, or the crosses of our loved ones. We shake our heads in dismay when we hear of people in distress, and we do all in our power, often by service work, to help mitigate the cross. We tremble at the shadow of a cross as it comes into our lives.

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Key to the Kingdom

Dear Parishioners,

Saint Peter was the head of the apostles. How do we know this? From the tradition and from today's Gospel (Matt 16:13-20). When Peter correctly answers that Jesus is the Christ, our Lord responds to him: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

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Work for Your Prayer

Dear Parishioners,

Work for your prayer. That is one message we can take away from our Gospel on this 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time. A Canaanite woman asks Jesus for help and he does not respond. The woman does not quit. She keeps asking. In fact, she asks so much the apostles become annoyed. “Jesus' disciples came and asked him, ’Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us’” (Matt 15:23).

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All the wrong places?

Dear Parishioners,

We listen this weekend to the account of Jesus walking on water. The apostles, floundering on the boat, were so surprised they actually were “terrified,” as Matthew tells us (Matt 14:22-33). They do not think it is Jesus, but rather a ghost. They expect to see Jesus on firm ground, like any normal person. He should not be on water!

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Shine On

Dear Parishioners,

“Christ's mysteries are our mysteries.” Blessed Columba Marmion once wrote those words. He was saying that we can apply the events in Christ's life to our own. The second Person of the Holy Trinity, by taking on human nature, fused humanity to the divine. What happened (and happens), thus, to our Lord, happens to us.

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Twinning

Dear Parishioners,

The twin parables of the Kingdom of Heaven this Sunday (the treasure buried in the field and the pearl of great price) are ones, I surmise, to be easily dismissed. We are currently living in the Kingdom of God—do we see it as a treasure or a pearl? No. Our lives of faith and our activity in the Church seem rather ordinary, anything but a treasure or a pearl. So, how can we relate to these parables from Matthew on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time?

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