Category Archives: Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments

Questioning God?

The Gospel for the 25th Sunday through the Church Year has us meditating on Matthew 20:1-16. You know the Gospel narrative where the last worker gets the same wage as those who toiled all day; some are angry at the landowner –the analogy is that we are really angry at God’s generosity.  The logic of God is not the logic of man. Too often we say that we want to be like God, to act like Jesus, be as merciful as our Heavenly Father. I don’t doubt this is a true desire of our heart but haven’t really seen sustained examples of putting words into action. I do believe, however, many strive and honestly wrestle with the idea we need and desire God’s uncompromising and generosity and look for ways to employ Divine Revelation: this is the journey of faith: we in process of becoming what we are meant to be by the Blessed Trinity.

A patristic reflection from St. Gregory the Great: “The householder said to them, ‘I wish to give to this last one as I give even to you.’ And since the obtaining of his kingdom comes from his goodwill, he properly adds, ‘Or am I not allowed to do what I wish?’ It is always foolish to question the goodness of God. There might have been reason for loud complaint if he did not give what he owed but not if he gives what he does not owe.”

One of the monks at St Joseph’s Abbey (Spencer, MA) wrote the following of the Gospel:

It is that in the final scene of today’s Gospel when the foreman doles out the pay that we are witness to the extravagant compassion of the landowner, (a cipher for the extravagant mercy of our God.) All the workers, even the last ones who worked for only one measly hour, receive a denarius. Aware of their need and the desperation of their situation; the landowner knows that less than a denarius will be not enough for a man and his family for a day. And he wants them all to go home happy and satisfied. Now that’s not fair; it’s excessive. But if we were part of that last crowd who had worked for only an hour, we’d be overjoyed at the landowner’s outlandish generosity.

How often I murmur because things aren’t fair. And true enough it’s the constant plea of psalmist and prophet, “Why is it Lord that the way of the wicked prospers? Why is it that you let the sun and rain and all good things come to the just and the unjust?” It’s not fair. But the good news is God’s Kingdom is not about fairness or entitlement, only mercy; never about “confidence” in my own accomplishments or sacrifices.* It’s not ever about rewards but grace- not something earned but a gift freely given in love. My brothers and sisters, God is not fair. He is abundantly, incomprehensibly merciful, way beyond our imagining. He knows we don’t always do enough, don’t always pull our weight or labor long and hard enough, that sometimes I loaf and dawdle and wait too long and make bad decisions. He sees it all, and he is merciful. It doesn’t mean that everything’s always OK, not at all. No, I mess up, and God is merciful. I am unkind, impatient, stingy, and God is merciful and gives me another chance.

Imagine if God were only fair. Imagine if he gave me what I really deserve. I’d be in big trouble. Certainly God looks into our hearts and notices the good we do, but the kingdom is all about his mercy, never payback for a job well done. It is on the contrary completely, utterly, totally gift. Gratuitous, absolutely surprising, way beyond what I am “entitled to.” Simple gratitude is the only response. For what do we have that we have received? No, God is not fair, but all loving, all giving, all forgiving. We’re all latecomers and God is always switching things around. It’s called mercy. And Jesus invites us this morning not to succumb to jealousy, to literally “having a wicked eye” which will not allow us to see clearly as God sees.

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

triumph of the crossToday’s Solemnity of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: “We Adore You O Christ, and We Bless You, Because by Your Holy Cross, You have Redeemed the world!”

This feast celebrates two historical events: the discovery of the True Cross by Saint Helen, mother of the Emperor Constantine, in AD 320 under the temple of Venus in Jerusalem. The feast is also memorialized in the basilica of the Holy Cross in Rome, a church constructed by Helen. In the USA, the metropolitan cathedral of Boston honors this feast with the name of Holy Cross. It is also the dedication in AD 335 of the basilica and shrine built on Calvary by Emperor Constantine, which mark the site of the Crucifixion.

The greatness of this feast reminds us that the Cross is the instrument, the vehicle of our salvation; touching our lips to the glorious cross of our redemption, we  take up the crosses in our own lives and accept and reverence them as well.  And by God’s grace we are able to carry our cross to the natural conclusion.

Saint Andrew of Crete tells us: “We are celebrating the feast of the cross which drove away darkness and brought in the light… Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, Life Itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if Life had not been nailed to it, they would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be canceled, we should not have obtained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life, and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled… The cross is called Christ’s glory; it is saluted as his triumph.”



An everlasting inheritance promised

The Mass Collect prayed by the priest states that by God’s grace we are adopted children and by His grace we ask for a share in the gift of freedom and an everlasting inheritance. What is this inheritance? It is the gifts of the hundredfold in this life and living in His holy Presence in the next. The Church begs the Holy Spirit for these gifts for her children as the sacrament of Christ’s Presence on earth, as the mediator between God and humanity. The sacred Liturgy is the method of our conversion and our Christian identity; the prayer of the Liturgy is about giving glory to God.

The Scripture readings for the 23rd Sunday through the Year has us hearing Matthew 18:15-20. Here is a reflection from St. John Chrysostom:

“You will be doing everything for the glory of God if, when you leave this place, you make yourself responsible for saving your brother or sister, not just by accusing and rebuking him or her, but also by advising and encouraging, and by pointing out the harm done by worldly amusements, and the profit and help that come from our instruction. You’ll also be preparing for yourself a double reward, since as well is greatly furthering your own salvation, you will be endeavoring to heal a fellow member of Christ’s body. It is the Church’s pride, it is the Savior’s command, not to be concerned only about our own welfare, but about our neighbor’s also.”

”Treasures of the Divine Life”: revisiting the sacraments of Initiation

Pastors, DREs, catechists, parents, and others concerned for religious education and sacramental prep all have some pastoral questions regarding the sacramental life of our children. Clearly, the current practice of separating the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation) as much as 7 seven years from one another seem to be more problematic than helpful, and our theology for such a bit weak. News this week announced that the Archbishop of Denver and his theologians and catechists are hosting a conference to explore the status of the question and see what can be done to better be faithful to a truly Catholic sacramentality.

At last I knew the were 15 dioceses in the USA giving the sacrament of Confirmation at the time of First Communion. We need an evaluation on this practice.

Anthony Lilles, the academic dean of Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo, CA, writes on his blog:

The Catechetical Congress draws its name from a passage in the Catechism, “Treasure of Divine Life.”  These are notes from a presentation in which we will consider how the signs used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist have a certain order in the Bible, and this order reveals the splendor of what it means to be fully human and fully alive.

“Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life: they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian’s life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life” (CCC 1210).

The Christ, the Son of God, St Peter declares

St Peter with key to heavenOur reflection for the 21st Sunday through the Year on Matthew 16:13-20 comes from St. Cyril of Alexandria:

“Peter did not say ‘you are a Christ’ or ‘a son of God’ but ‘the Christ, the Son of God.’ For there are many christs by grace, who have attained the rank of adopted sons, but only one who is by nature the Son of God. Thus, using the definite article, he said, ‘the Christ, the Son of God’. And in calling him the Son of the living God, Peter indicates that Christ himself is life and that death has no authority over him. And even if the flesh, for a short while, was weak and died, nevertheless it rose again, since the Word, who indwelled it, could not be held under the bonds of death.”

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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