When we reflect on the Scriptures today, especially the Gospel lesson, it will not be very helpful for us unless we remind ourselves of the context in which this Gospel lesson, this parable, is told by Jesus.
The Peace Pulpit
As we begin our reflection on the sacred Scriptures today, it seems very clear first of all that these lessons are lessons about conversion, about changing the direction of our lives in some minor ways, perhaps, but as always with Jesus, it means radical conversion -- a profound change.
I have an idea that almost every one of us who hears this Gospel, and we've heard it before, feels more in touch with the workers who worked that whole day and then watched as others who worked only an hour received the same thing they did.
We are all very much aware, of course, that today is the 10th anniversary of the terrible act of terrorism perpetrated against us 10 years ago. Isn't it very challenging to try to hear what God is speaking to us today?
In fact, I think we might be most surprised by the passage from the Book of Sirach because don't we often think of the Old Testament as a testament where God is revealed as being a very harsh God almost, a warrior God. He acts against enemies and allows the Chosen People to do that.
In order to draw deeply from the Scriptures today, especially the Gospel, it's important for us to connect it with what we've heard in the Gospel on the last couple of Sundays, and I think you'll remember very readily a couple of Sundays ago when Jesus challenged his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" They were fumbling around until Peter stepped up and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Jesus praises him.
I’m sure we remember last Sunday’s gospel because it was so dramatic, where Jesus had asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” and they were fumbling around trying to come up with an answer. They said, well, one of the prophets, maybe Jeremiah, Elijah. Then Peter steps up and says, “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God.” Jesus was very excited about that, that Peter recognized who he was, but then at the end of the gospel, Jesus says something quite strange for the disciples -- and for all of us -- because he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
Going all the way back to my grade school days when I was in a Catholic parochial school, we studied religion. I can remember this particular text very well: "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church."
If we listen very carefully to the scriptures today, especially this gospel lesson, we will discover more about Jesus, especially in his humanness, but also we will be challenged by the story of the courageous faith of this woman and the boundary crossing that happens in this incident.
In order to listen deeply and carefully to the lesson of this Liturgy of the Word, it's important for us to remind ourselves of the context in which these three lessons are provided for us today.
It goes back a number of Sundays where Jesus first began his public life and proclaimed the Good News. "The Reign of God is at hand. Change your lives. Something new and important is going to happen."
To begin our reflection today, I thought I might call attention first of all to those inspiring and encouraging words from Paul's letter to the Church at Rome that we heard as our second lesson.