Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
A woman found a lamp and as she examined it out popped a genie. “Do I get three wishes?” she asked. “Nope, I’m a one-wish genie. What will it be?”“ She pulled out a map and said : “see this map? I want these countries to stop fighting so we can have world peace.” “They’ve been fighting for many centuries. I’m not that good.” What else do you have?” the genie asked the lady. “Well, I’d like a good man. One who’s considerate, loves kids, is filthy rich, likes to cook, and doesn’t watch sports all day.” Okay, “the genie said with a sigh. ” Let me see that map again.”
What would we ask for if God or a one-wish genie appeared to us? When Solomon asked for wisdom it shows he was already wise. Unfortunately he didn’t keep using his wisdom to serve God’s people well. He married too many wives and spent the country into bankruptcy, so much so that when he died the country split into two kingdoms, pretty much isolating the kings who were descendants of David and Solomon.
I felt I needed to add that part about Solomon, because having wisdom does not mean we will always make good use of it. Let us return now to today’s gospel. This is the third week now we have been hearing parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. What would we be willing to spend all of our money on, like the people in today’s gospel?
We may think that the parable of the treasure and the pearl need no explanation. Certainly, Heaven will be all that we could ever desire and more so. But there is a subtle message here that we must not miss. Notice that the people who discovered the treasure and the pearl made it their highest priority. Nothing else was more important. Our search for the kingdom of God has to be our highest priority. Everything we have attained in life, or might attain will give us some satisfaction and happiness. But, everything is temporary. Entering into the Kingdom of heaven which Jesus has revealed to us is happiness forever. What could be more important than that?
The parable of the fishing net that gathered up good fish as well as bad is very similar to the parable of the wheat and the weeds. Its message is to trust in God’s final judgment and to be patient until that time comes. The perennial problem of evil in the world will be resolved.
We have to be careful not to give these parables an interpretation that supports John Calvin’s form of predestination. It is true, the wheat and the weeds as well as with the good and bad fish represent two types of things of superior and inferior quality. John Calvin, the founder of Calvinism would argue God creates people in the same manner and that there’s nothing any of us can do to change it. In Calvin’s view God creates us destined to either heaven or hell, and we cannot change our destiny. To think that way would contradict the entire message of the gospel.
We are called to holiness and we have a free will to choose God’s grace or to disregard it. Remember it is in Matthew’s gospel that we read the account of the Last Judgment where the “Son of Man” will separate peoples of all nations inviting one group to enter the kingdom of Heaven and commanding the other to depart from him into the everlasting fire. It is on this basis that they are separated: on the basis of “what you have done for the least of my brothers and sisters you did it for me.” Weeds can’t change their nature, nor can fish that are inedible. Because we are human with a free will, we can change ourselves, with God’s help, when our life is going in the wrong direction.
The correct way to think of “predestination” is that we are all predestined to heaven, a place “prepared for us from the beginning of the world” as Jesus calls it (Mt. 25,34). However, the gospels tell us that not everyone lives up to the destiny God has created them for. There is a strange image at the end of the parable about the fish, that the bad fish will be thrown into a furnace of fire. Usually, bad fish are just thrown back into the water. This image of being thrown into a furnace of fire and the weeping and gnashing of teeth is symbolic language for eternal suffering. Jesus asked his disciples “Have you understood all these things?” Let us pray for the wisdom to understand, not as with the wisdom of Solomon but with the wisdom of a faithful disciple of Jesus. Amen.
Fr. Grzegorz Stasiak
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Summer has always been for me a time to relax from the regular routine and recharge my batteries. I look forward to days on the beach or in the countryside, re-connecting with relatives and friends, visiting new places, or simply sitting on a porch swing and sipping iced tea. Yes, my sister has a porch swing. This year things look a bit different. COVID-19 and a new pastorate have greatly curtailed my summertime plans. Although the weather has been, for the most part, beautiful, I find that I cannot enjoy the great outdoors as much as I’d like to. I’m trying to get things done in a COVID-19 world and it’s all moving too slowly for me. I like to get things “taken care of”, but circumstances are calling me to slow down and pace myself.
There is a lesson in all this for me, and I think for all of us. I’m learning that the world does not move at my pace. Things will “get done“ when they get done. I need to be patient and allow things to happen rather than always make them happen. I don’t mean that it doesn’t take planning and effort to get things done. I simply mean that sometimes we simply have to accept that we cannot control every aspect of time. We are simply subject to forces and circumstances beyond our control.
I think that for those of us who believe in God’s providence and love for us, there is a better way of accepting that things will not always go our way or turn out as we want. After doing
everything that we can to bring about the desired result, we simply have to leave things in His hands and pray, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Will Be Done”. May His will be done, when He wants, in the way He wants. To truly live that way, as someone who is completely dependent on God’s will, is the way of the saint. It is a lesson that many of our canonized (and un-canonized) saints have had to learn. The challenge for all of us is to recognize that, no matter how good or competent or determined we may be, we are not in charge.
We may have a different kind of summer than what we are used to, but we can still relax knowing that, no matter what happens, it is still God’s world, and He is very much in charge.
Enjoy your summer, and rest assured that “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose”. (Romans 8:28)
Rev. Frank Schwarz
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Last weekend, July 4th and 5th, we celebrated public Masses in the Church for the first time in four months. Attendance at the four Masses was low and totaled just over 125 individuals. I know it was a holiday weekend, and many people are perhaps concerned about coming back to Masses so soon. It is always a good idea to stay home if one is not feeling well or if one has a weakened immune system. Be assured that the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass is still in effect, and so it is not a sin to miss Mass during this time of pandemic. I would, however, like to see some more faces In the pews, even if they are covered by masks. At the recommended 25% capacity our Church can accommodate up to 80 people. If we had 80 people at each of the four Sunday Masses we would have a total of 320 people. This is still significantly lower than the average weekend attendance, but it is a start.
Some good news is that the diocese has given permission to have First Communions. We will be looking for a date to do that so that our young children can receive the Sacrament of our Lord’s Body and Blood. It will probably take place on a Saturday. Also, we are now performing baptisms and memorial Masses, as well as funerals and weddings, all while practicing social distancing. Yes, the Church is open for business. We will also be looking to have regular hours in the rectory, although this may take some time. If anyone would like a Mass card, in the meantime, they can always call in a name and mail a check to the Rectory or drop it through the mail slot of the front door.
I hope that this will bring some sense of normalcy to parishioners. Activities have been curtailed, and in some cases continue to be postponed, but we are slowly and carefully re-opening. I can assure you that we are doing everything possible to make sure that there is no resurgence of the COVID-19 virus in our parish. Please continue the practice of wearing masks, social distancing, sanitizing hands, etc… It is working, and we have seen a dramatic decrease in cases since we have started doing these things.
I also want to thank all those parishioners who have continued their financial support of the parish during this time. I speak for myself and for Msgr. McGuirl, our pastor emeritus, when I say that your efforts to support your parish are greatly appreciated. I would also like to encourage you to continue your support of the Annual Catholic Appeal. We are just a little over halfway to our goal. Remember all the good work that our Diocese of Brooklyn continues to do, despite the pandemic. We are still feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, working with migrants, fostering vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life, running hospital chaplaincies (an especially important ministry during this time of pandemic), and many other good works which your Appeal dollars go to support.
My hope is that, as this Sunday’s Gospel suggests, our hearts will be open to the Word of God, just as the good soil is able to receive the seed that is sown and produce fruit that is one hundred, or sixty, or thirty fold.
May God bless each of you for your generosity, and thank you again for all you do for Our Lady of Mercy Church.
Rev. Frank Schwarz