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Archive for September, 2011

Bulletin for October 2, 2011

The bulletin for October 2, 2011 has been published and can be found here: http://churchofstdominic.org/cluster/bulletin

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Gospel, Matthew 21:33-43  Jesus uses the familiar prophecy of the vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-7 to begin his parable with a different twist.  The vineyard is productive, but those running the vineyard do not want to share the proceeds with the owner who purchased the land and developed the vineyard.  The tenant farmers may have previously been owners of the lands they now worked, having lost ownership of the land due to inability to pay the high taxes demanded by Herod Antipas.  Poor land owners sold out to wealthy landowners, many of whom lived in other countries and managed their investments from afar.  At the time of Jesus the owner was legally entitled to 50% or more of the profits.  We can easily imagine the tenant farmers holding much resentment over the situation.  There may have been an actual case in which tenant farmers, angry at the “system” which took their land away from them, tried to get it back in the manner described in this parable.  If such were the case, the crowds who heard this parable may actually have cheered the tenants on. 

The parable was directed to the chief priests and elders who clearly understood Jesus’ message that they had failed to care for God’s vineyard, using their religious power to benefit themselves rather than the poor people of God, the true “owner” of the vineyard who sent his prophets and then his Son to call people to give God his due.

Reading 1, Isaiah 5:1-7  This passage is in the earlier chapters of the book of the prophet Isaiah, a section believed to have come from the actual prophetic message of Isaiah himself during the second half of the eighth century B.C.  Isaiah prophesied in Judah, the southern kingdom, during and following the time that their sister nation Israel to the north fell to the Assyrians and her people were deported.  The vineyard in this prophecy includes both the nations of Israel and Judah together, but it refers mores specifically to Jerusalem, the capital of Judah.  Both nations would eventually be overrun, and the walls of Jerusalem will be broken down and the temple destroyed along with the rest of the city.   

Reading II, Philippians 4:6-9  Philippi was located near the northernmost area of the Aegean Sea which separated Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) on the east from the Greece-Macedonia territory on the west.  It was in Macedonia about nine miles inland from its port city of Neapolis.  Paul, accompanied by Silas, Timothy and Luke, visited Philippi on his second missionary journey in 49 or 50 A.D.  During their first week there he converted a wealthy woman named Lydia whom he met through business…Lydia dealt with purple dye for cloth while Paul supported himself and his ministry as a tentmaker.  She and her household were all baptized.  Paul’s group stayed at her home and made it the center for the fledgling Christian community in Philippi. 

There was a slave girl in Philippi who was possessed by a spirit that told fortunes and brought the girl’s owner a significant profit for doing so.  She was an irritant to Paul who, after being bothered by her for several days, cast the spirit out of her.  Seeing his source of income go dry, the slave owner whipped up the crowd against Paul and Silas.  They were beaten and thrown in jail.  That night the town suffered an earthquake which apparently damaged the prison to the point that prisoners could have escaped.  Paul and Silas remained and, in doing so, saved the life of the guard who could have been executed for losing his prisoners.  The guard took them to his home where he and his family were converted that very night.  Then Paul and Silas returned with him to the prison.  In the morning the city magistrate, wanting to avoid further conflict, gave orders that Paul and Silas be released and sent on their way.  Paul wasn’t about to do so quietly.  He was a Roman citizen, and it was illegal to whip a Roman citizen.  Moreover, the magistrate had made a spectacle of the whole matter and everyone in town knew.  Realizing he had put himself in a very dangerous position, the magistrate went personally to apologize to Paul and smooth things out.  Paul and Silas returned to Lydia’s home for a gathering of believers and then left town.  Later on, Lydia and the community at Philippi frequently sent money to support Paul’s ministry.  The positive tone of the letter reflects Paul’s appreciation.

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The bulletin for September 25, 2011 has been published and can be found here: http://churchofstdominic.org/cluster/bulletin

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Gospel, Matthew 21:28-32  The section of Matthew’s gospel from 21:23 through 23:36 is a series of confrontations orencounters between Jesus and representatives of the major Jewish groups of his day.  In 21:23-27 some chief priests and elders challenge Jesus’ authority.  In today’s gospel from 21:28-32 Jesus turns the conversation against them and continues to do so in 21:33-46 with the parable of the tenants who try to take over the vineyard by killing the owner’s son.  Then in 22:1-14 Jesus tells the parable of the wedding feast to which those initially invited did not come.  In 22:15-22 the Pharisees try to trap Jesus over the question of payment of taxes.  Then in 22:23-33 the Sadducees challenge him about the resurrection from the dead.  The Pharisees return to challenge Jesus in 22:34-40 as to which commandment of the law is the greatest.  Then Jesus goes on the offensive in 22:41-46 with questions about the Messiah in relationship to David.  When “no one dared to ask him any more questions” (22:46), Jesus directs himself to the crowds to denounce the Scribes and Pharisees in 23:1-36.  These groups had some major differences of opinion among themselves.  While the Pharisees, for example, believed in resurrection of the dead and life after death, the Sadducees did not.  While the chief priests and Sadducees supported the government to their benefit, the Pharisees were clear about their opposition to Roman rule.  All of these groups, however, saw Jesus as a threat.  Many people today would like to see our presidential candidates go head-to-head with some verbal sparring.  So it was with people of Jesus’ time.  Apparently Jesus was very witty and good with such encounters, something which delighted the crowds and silenced his opponents.  Unsuccessful in such public debates, they would eventually decide the only means of silencing him would be to have him put to death.

Reading 1, Ezekiel 18:25-28  The entire chapter of Ezekiel 18 recounts a word of God to Ezekiel regarding a previous common belief that children share in the guilt and punishment for the sins of their parents and vice versa.  The lesson makes it clear that God will not punish anyone for the sins of another, “I will judge you each one according to his ways” (18:30).  Within that teaching is given the message of complete forgiveness for the sinner who turns away from sins to lead a virtuous life: “None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him” (18:22).  What bothered those who heard Ezekiel’s teaching was the corollary regarding those who turn from virtue to a way of sin: “None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered because he has broken faith” (18:24).  That seemed unfair to them because they considered doing good deeds like putting money in a bank account.  They might consider it fair that some of their savings be withdrawn when they do evil, but not that their entire account be wiped out.  Paul will deal with the relationship between faith and virtuous deeds in his letter to the Romans as will James in his letter.  The key is the state of one’s relationship with God.  Virtuous deeds do not stand by themselves.  They are an essential outward expression of faith commanded by God and the individual’s personal response to God in the relationship.  The relationship is central.  Because of that, one breaking faith with God has truly lost the account while one turning away from sin opens a new account with no debt transfer.

Reading II, Philippians 2:1-11  Verses 6-11 are commonly believed to have been a familiar hymn quoted by Paul in his letter.  They beautifully teach how the Son of God in Jesus could retain his divine nature while emptying himself of all the divine attributes, thus taking on human nature along with all our human attributes.  Then, through his human nature, he offered himself back to the Father.  Thus, in Jesus, God reveals God’s love to humanity and humanity is offered back to God.

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Recalculating … what the Garmin, the GPS guidance system now used by so many car drivers,  says when you have gone in a direction contrary to its plan.

It reminds me of the recalculating that must be done when there is an unexpected pregnancy.  Working at the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Northfield, formerly Birthright, I have seen how difficult it can be for the pregnant woman who may have planned to go  to college or her parents who are embarrassed or her boyfriend who doesn’t feel ready for the responsibility.

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The bulletin for September 18, 2011 has been published and can be found here: http://churchofstdominic.org/cluster/bulletin

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A good source of information is on this site of the United States Conference of Catholic bishops.  Notice it is the old.usccb.org/romanmissal

http://old.usccb.org/romanmissal/

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