Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Michael and the Holy Archangels. So today it is all about angels. The word angel derives from the Hebrew word “Malakh” (Arabic: Malak) and the Greek word “Angelus”. They both refer to our word messenger. An angel is so a messenger of the most High God. They are called angels when they deliver a more general message, like the angels after the birth of Jesus. But the angels who deliver messages of supreme importance we call archangels. And so it was the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was fitting that an archangel should announce the greatest of all messages. The archangels have names to confirm their ministry when they came among us. So, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s healing.”
Whenever Gods power is performed Michael shows up. It makes clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. When Lucifer wanted in his pride to be like God Michael defeated him and expelled him from heaven. Lucifer overruled his power when he called out: “I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High”. So Michael dealt with him. What Lucifer did is something that that could come from the mouth of mortals. We are also often act like we are God. But we have to understand that only God is God…and we are not. The archangel Michael throws him out of Heaven and casts him on the earth. And that is the reason why the world is in such bad shape. Because he as his angels want to bring as much people down as they can. They are jealous.
We rejoice on the Feast of the three Archangels who are mentioned by name in Scripture: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. For our mission St. Michael is extremely important as our patron Saint. But of course all of the archangels are important. All three names of the Archangels end with the word “El”, which means “God”. So God is present in their names.
The Archangels are God’s special messengers. They bring God to humankind and open heaven for mankind. The Angels speak to human beings about our true being. And so we are called to be “angels” to one another. We must be people of prayer, who intercedes with God for human beings. For all of mankind, not only those that we like. The more we do, the more we become Gods messenger.
When we reflect on the archangels we see St. Michael showing up in the book of Daniel and also in the Letter of the St Jude and in the Book of Revelation. Two roles become immediately clear: He defends against the “ancient serpent” and defends Gods people.
The serpent’s effort is to make us believe that we can't trust and that we can be more important than God. He does lie to give us the wrong perspective on God. He uses people for that as we can see on a daily basis. When people portray God in the wrong way. He is also called “the accuser of our brethren”. He tries to give us a bad name before God and before mankind. We are also called to angels to the people that God has entrusted to us. This is especially true for the clergy. We meet Archangel Gabriel in the precious moment of the annunciation to Mary of the Incarnation. God asks Mary through Gabriel for her yes. And so does he ask from us when he knocks on the door of our heart. We get the same message as the Church of Laodicea in the book Revelation. Namely: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me”. The Lord is at the door of our hearts and wants to come in, if we allow Him.
The Angel Raphael appears in the Book of Tobit as a healer. When Jesus sends out his disciples it is always a healing ministry. Just like the Archangel Raphael was an instrument of healing. He heals the disturbed relationship between a man and a woman and brings healing to the blind old Tobit. We can also be blind for seeing God in our lives. With all that surrounds us in this world, we risk becoming blind to God’s light. Raphael is there to cure us from that blindness. Our wounds cause division with one another and that needs healing It is through Gods Mercy and Grace that we are forgiven and so are healed from our blindness. Amen.
In the first reading Ezekiel is letting his readers know that he has received from God and is speaking by Gods authority. Written by him but as God told him. “ What do you mean, that you use this proverb (mashal) concerning the land of Israel?” The word mashal means represent or compare. It can denote a proverb, riddle, or parable. God wants to know. The words that Ezekiel speaks to Israel comes in the context of all the things that have happened before they came to that point. After King Solomon died, Israel split into two kingdoms, the kingdom of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and the kingdom of Judah (the Southern Kingdom). And now Ezekiel is talking to the complaining Israelites.
This text from Ezekiel emphasizes personal choice—accountability for the individual’s sins rather than the sins of the parents. This is an important point. If people believe that they are going to be punished for the sins of their parents, that belief robs them of hope.
“Cast away from you all your transgressions, in which you have transgressed“ (v. 31a). Rather than attributing their punishment to the sins of their ancestors, these Israelites need to acknowledge their sins and cast them aside so they can move on. We have to admit were we have gone wrong and ask God to forgive us. Maybe we didn't love our neighbor enough, maybe we gossiped and caused division. We live in exciting times with the pandemic, the upcoming elections and turmoil in this country and around the world. And often we don't live the Gospel and and cause division ourselves. Yes we are loving and caring, but usually only for the people that agree with us. We have to stop blaming other and God and look at our own faults. We have to see where we have gone wrong as a individual, a nation and as a world. The problem might be that we think we have not failed and want to blame God or others, for things we caused ourselves.
St. Paul tells us not to act out of our selfish ambition but it is better to be humble and count others more significant than ourselves. Being a follower of Christ means that we should not boast about our own accomplishments but always give credit to God and serve our neighbor. The Gospel also emphasizes to have the right attitude, when we say we are disciples of Christ. The story reminds us that actions speak louder than words. When we look around us we can see that organizations have mission statements what they want to accomplish. If we look carefully many of these organizations perform poorly. They may have good intentions but the fail to live up to their own rhetoric. With this parable Matthew probably meant to tell his community to imitate the first son and join them in believing in Jesus. He also meant it as a nudge to those Christians who had initially said 'yes' and then wavered. When we read these parables, we are called either directly or indirectly to ask ourselves which of the two we are. Most likely, both descriptions fit us, depending on the circumstances. We know it from our younger years. When our parents asked us to do something. Sometimes we acted like the first son and sometimes like the second one.
Neither son in this parable has the right virtue when it comes to it. Neither did any of the followers of Jesus back then, or now. Nobody is perfect, we are all human and make mistakes. Jesus is the only one that did the Father’s will at every point, even when suffering is his part. Jesus is neither of the sons in this parable. But there is a hopeful message in the parable Jesus gives us. Namely, that salvation is not for the perfect, but for the repentant. Redemption is still available for those who refuse the call of the Lord at first. These prostitutes and tax collectors to whom Jesus referred had repented of their sin and come back into union with the will of the Father. Even if, they were not necessarily enthusiastic about it at first. You can only imagine what the priests and elders thought of this parable. Jesus was explicitly saying that the priests and elders were the second son of the parable. They were only interested in honor and power for themselves. And that is also a warning for today's Church. Don't make it all about yourself. And i know social media does not really help, but we have to focus on God and neighbor always. The conclusion that tax collectors and prostitutes were closer to Heaven than the priests and elders, would have produced anger from them.
Having been in leadership, they felt entitled to God’s favor. They must have felt Jesus’s words as a deep insult to their dignity. However, our first reading from Ezekiel addresses that idea of fairness. Israel in those days griped that the Lord had been unfair in dealing with Israel. The delivered his rebuke: “Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?” This rebuke perfectly resembles the parable Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel. The Israelites in Ezekiel's day were also the second son in the parable so to say. The Israelites see the consequences of this disobedience as unfair. And that is because they are too caught up in their own things, instead of coming into communion with the Lord. And we are often quit the same. We are caught up too much in things that don't matter as much as our relationship with God: our own personal things, the pandemic, politics and so on. So this is a lesson for all times. Since the beginning people have a rebellious nature and hardness in their hearts. And that is still the case, even in Christianity. Some people might have Gods words on their lips, but not always in their heart.
Even with that hardness of heart and rebellious nature, the Father continued to send messengers to persuade his people into the role of the first son. That summarizes the the mission of Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection opened that path for all people. We are called to worship God and do as he tells us. Not because he wants to be harsh on us but because he knows what is best for us. Otherwise we will always suffer through the temptations of this fallen and divided world. We should not trust on human beings for our Salvation, but on God only. We have no other Savior and redeemer than Jesus Christ only. So let us renew our commitment to Jesus Christ. Let us follow his call to work in His vineyard for His harvest. God never gives up on us. He just keeps telling us patiently to listen to His call and hopes that we give up our disobedience and our clinging to the world. He calls us to admit our mistakes and move on. Once we do that we will experience true joy and happiness. Amen.
Today it is above all about God’s love and mercy. In the firs reading we hear Jonah’s complaining, because of Gods mercy. He does not like it at all and he even gets angry at God. It shows us not only who God is but also that God can handle it when we complain or even get angry at him. But we have also to be prepared for his answer and allow him to let us experience his truth. In many ways we are much like Jonah and doesn’t like it when God does not think like us: in terms of wrath and retribution. God shows Jonah that he has mercy on all his children and actually on everything that he created, inclusive the cattle.
The core of the Gospel is that God does whatever pleases him. He does not have to ask us for our permission. Try as we may, it is impossible to justify the payment of the workers in the vineyard in ordinary social terms. It could hardly be said to be fair. Yes, the owner is generous to the last comers, but why is he not generous to the others as well? It is simply that there is no reckoning up deserts when man meets God. The context of the Gospel is that Judaism in these days had become legalistic. Maybe just like much of Christianity in our days. The attitude was that salvation must be earned. A lot of commandments needed to be fulfilled (the Jews had 613). People were divided in two classes, the righteous and the outcast. This last category were despised by those who kept the law.
It was this concept of God that Jesus opposed by his emphasis on love. We can never say that we have earned our salvation. We can only stand empty handed before God, with all our shortcomings. The last workers in the vine-yard get more then they had deserved, according to their co-workers. The mistake of their envious colleagues is to think that they deserve what they got. Many times Christians are the same. They know exactly who deserves Gods Grace and who goes to heaven. People may find it difficult to understand that that someone who repents on his deathbed is going to heaven. No less than those who have struggled and suffered all their lives for what is right. But that is how the world of commercial business works, get what you deserved. But that is not how God works. Because it neglects the law of love.
The relationship we have with God is one of love. The love we give to God and our neighbor has it’s own reward. It brings its own happiness also in this life. The greater the struggle, the more a Christian turns to God and finds comfort in his love. Also, fidelity towards God through a long life is better then a quick and final conversion. The relationship of love had a to find more depth during the years and so is stronger. In that way you are better capable to receive Gods reward. The early Christians were a prime example of that relationship. While threatened with persecution they were filled with joy for Christ. They were looking forward to the ‘crown of glory’. The parable of the vineyard-workers has nothing to do with social justice or labor relationships. It illustrates Jesus’ teaching about grace and mercy. There are consequences for the church and for us individually. “The church is a place where everyone should be welcomed, loved and forgiven.
We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ. We have to extend Gods love and mercy to those that we encounter, in word and deed, everyday again. So we must be the “salt of the earth and the light of the world”, in and outside the Church. In that way we are truly followers of Jesus Christ. Amen.
We use many words every day. Mostly for communication with friends, colleagues and family. Mostly in good way but sometimes in divisive or unhelpful ways. This can hurt the person they are addressed to. The person can get upset or feel better, depending on the words. It even is worse when someone did something bad in our eyes. In that situation we want to have a certain punishment. For instance, when someone committed a crime. This is not because we are harsh people but because we want justice to be done to the victim. We call that “Poetic Justice”.
Forgiveness for all of us is a difficult concept, usually when we are wronged, what we want to do is retaliate, he or she did this to me, I’m going to repay them by doing this. The fire of anger enrages us, and if we are being honest it is highly unlikely that the first thing on our mind is repentance. Just like in the Jewish tradition we often want 'measure for measure', 'an eye for an eye' or in our modern language “Tit for tat.” Poetic justice most often goes deeper than the results of misguided or selfish decisions. Just try to consider the results of our sinful human nature. There are many good people who turning out to do bad things. In the process pay a very heavy price. These are the ones that live their lives with guilt but are also afraid that others act against them. When you live a life that is contrary on what God wants Anytime, we live lives that are counter to God’s will, we live “you will reap what you sow”. This is a kind of justice. The scriptures are filled with stories that show an “eye for an eye” mentality. Jacob deceives his father by portraying himself as Esau. Pharaoh decrees that all Israelite boys two years and under be drowned in the river Nile. Later the Pharaoh suffers the same fate when the angel of death is sent by God, during the final plague to kill all the first born. Too often, we mistake the idea of “measure for measure,” for revenge but that is not what it means. Measure for measure yields the natural consequences of our deeds.
St. Paul remembers us in his letter to the Romans that the judgement belongs to God ('the vengeance is mine'). We know from other occasions how unconditionally Jesus's love and forgiveness is but but today he goes even further. When Peter asks Jesus, “Lord how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive Him. As many as seven times?” Jesus responds with, “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Jesus is not merely referring to a number (490 times). What he is saying is that we should forgive an infinite amount of times! Jesus is trying to “correct” the disciples’ understanding of 'measure for measure'. Jesus doesn’t neglect the Jewish idea of 'measure for measure' but like many of His teachings, He re-interprets it. He teaches them the proper way to understand it.
Jesus teaches that only God can judge. Our role is not to judge and punish, but to love, forgive and show mercy. Treat others as you want them to treat you.
Jesus’ parable today about forgiving sins and debts is a powerful one. If we expect and yearn to be forgiven, we too must be willing to forgive. It is a difficult teaching. What can help us to do a spiritual bible reading and place ourselves in the story. How would we feel if God would be harsh to us because we didn’t use his gifts as we should have? We don’t like the thought of being punished for misusing God’s gifts. We love the mercy God shows us when we ask for forgiveness. Luckily God is merciful and forgives those with a repentant heart. The forgiven man leaves and runs into someone indebted to him. Instead of showing the other person the same kind of mercy, he treats the man cruel and does not offer forgiveness. Jesus warns for the consequences of that behavior.
The price we could pay for refusing to forgive will be very great. Jesus referred to the place of punishment as a place of “wailing and gnashing of teeth”. “a place where there is darkness”. The price for refusing forgiveness brings us into a dark place.
Often, we say we forgive someone, but what actually happens is the relationship is not restored. Instead of forgiving from the heart, we instead hold on to the hurt and we secretly wish revenge on that person. We want an eye for an eye, for the wrong they have committed. But true forgiveness from the heart doesn’t do that. This kind of forgiveness let go of the hurt and wants to restore the relationship that has been damaged. This takes time and we have to ask God for help in the restoration process. But it is our desire to forgive from the heart and come to real reconciliation. Forgiveness from the heart is not easy but is necessary. ever easy, but it is what’s expected of us. Because we are coming to God and ask for forgiveness, we don’t ask for our fair share. We rather or will we instead plead for God’s mercy and forgiveness and grace? Jesus knew how hard it is for us to carry out God’s command of mercy and forgiveness, measure for measure. So, Jesus set aside His place in heaven and came to make the ultimate sacrifice. Each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we’re silently asking God to help us to Forgive others. If you live the Lord’s prayer and pray it well then you will be able to live by it. We are thankful that we have been forgiven and go in the world and extend that same love and forgiveness to others. Amen.
The cross is a strong Christian symbol. We can see it everywhere. It is in our churches, in our homes and it is being carried in procession. In some countries, like the Netherlands, you can see crosses out in the country. They are called field crosses. Some wear necklaces with a cross on it of have other ways to show the cross. In the beginning of the Mass we sign ourselves with the cross as a sign of our faith. I have known someone who used to say that the sign of the cross is a Creed in itself. On the other side the cross contains a paradox. The Cross symbolizes a tool of execution. We Christians affirm the sign of the Cross but in the days of Jesus it was a cruel and inhuman form of torture and execution. It was a horrible death to die. Probably the most horrible way until in our days. That is why the Church opposes all forms of torture and above all abortion and the death penalty. The Cross is not just what Jesus died on. It symbolizes execution, torture, oppression and senseless violence. The cross was an instrument of execution. But yet” the symbol of our faith.
Today I want to talk about warnings and though conversations. Ezekiel tells us we should heed warnings. Otherwise we have no one to blame then ourselves. We often get warnings, as an individuals, a nation and as a world. In communication with one another and also in things that concern everyone.