Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 26, 2014
Anthony Medairos, pastor
18:2-4, 47, 51
For the Old Testament Jews, there
were 613 commandments. Thankfully for
catechism classes today someone back in ancient times (in David Letterman-fashion)
made a list of the Top Ten. These are
the ones you and I memorized. But,
theologically speaking, all of the 613 were considered of equal
importance. And trespassing any of them
was equally serious.
There were, of course, religious
teachers who tried to simplify for average people that which only religious
scholars might be expected to know. For
example the great rabbi Hillel, who lived at the same time as Jesus, taught,
“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Law; the rest is
explanation. Go and learn.”
The Pharisees set a trap for
Jesus: they goaded him to choose the
greatest commandment. Of course all 613
were of equal importance, so anything Jesus said would minimize most of them
and enmesh him in a theological error.
But Jesus answered boldly that the greatest commandment is the first,
the commandment that every observant Jew would pray every morning, the Shema Y’srael – found in the Book of
Deuteronomy: “Hear, oh Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your
heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” 
I am looking at a church filled with
believers. And we can all attest to the
ideal of loving God wholeheartedly. That
is self evident. But how is that love to
be measured? How do we know that we do love God – or love God enough?
So Jesus went a step further,
quoting from the Book of Leviticus: “You
shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  And just as the great rabbi Hillel had
observed, Jesus also explained, “The whole law and the prophets depend on these
The American philosopher and social
commentator Eric Hoffer remarked, “It is easier to love humanity as a whole
than to love one’s neighbor.” 
In other words, it is easier to love in the world of ideas; not so much in the
real world. Or as one comedian said, “I
love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand.”
We are to love our neighbor as
ourself. What has this to do with
God? And what has this to do with
ourself? Two things: First, the way we love our neighbor is a kind
of thermometer of the degree to which we have allowed God’s love to dwell
within ourself.  We
need to be careful about this: Remember
that love is not a sentiment, not a feeling.
We don’t need to like those whom we must love. But we do acknowledge that they are God’s
creatures and worthy of respect and affirmation. As an act of faith, we acknowledge through
our love of others that “God is love.”  As the Harvard theologian Harvey Cox wrote,
“Therefore, loving, including the neighbor, including the enemy, is an act of
participation in the life of God.” 
And even when we do not love our
neighbor perfectly, God’s love within us can heal this lack in us. God’s love within actually makes our attempts
to love our neighbors possible. “The more we desire to love all men, the more
God’s love will be perfected in us.” 
Second, look at the call to love
neighbor “as yourself” from another point of view. At first blush “as yourself” seems to mean
that we should love others as much as we love ourselves. And, of course, loving others “demands that
we first love ourselves and let ourselves be loved by God.”  Some people, sadly, “fail to appreciate, to
reverence, who we are and who it is that lives in us.” 
A person burdened with self-loathing who tries to love others may find it a
robotic, sterile experience. Such a
person faces burn-out and may quickly abandon his or her efforts. To be fruitful in loving your neighbor “as
yourself,” you must understand that you are loved and loveable yourself. We all need to know that we are loved by God.
And here is where a mystery
occurs. What loving a neighbor “as
yourself” also means is that the more
you do love your neighbor, the more
you will love yourself. Ironically, the
less you love your neighbor, the less you love yourself. Jesus, in the Great Commandment, revealed
that living a fulfilled life revolves around constantly giving ourselves to
those with whom we share that life.
So Jesus was able to say, “The whole
law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” The way to love God fully is to love our
neighbor. The love of neighbor is in
fact, a participation in the life of God, for God is love. And in the act of loving our neighbor, our
own love of self actually grows, inviting us – by manifesting that love toward
others – to live a truly fulfilled life.
 Eric Hoffer, as
quoted in Reader’s Digest, July 1996.
 George A.
Mahoney, Inward Stillness (Denville,
NJ: Dimensions Books, 1976), p. 172.
Cox, “Shifting Discourse,” Harvard
Divinity Bulletin (Autumn 2008), p. 13.
 Edward J.
Farrell, Gathering the Fragments: A
Gospel Mosaic (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1987, p. 16.
Twenty-eighth Sunday in
October 12, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20
I don’t notice trends in my
homilies. I never plan a series as it
seems some Protestant preachers do, announcing, “The next six Sundays I’ll be
speaking on ‘Sin and Grace.’” Priests
are constrained to keep close to the scriptures as set forth sequentially in
our lectionary. But as I reviewed my
homilies of recent weekends I realized that the gospels themselves were
trending in a specific direction.
There is a thread connecting these
scriptures, summed up in the idea of “insiders / outsiders.” We heard the parable of the vineyard owner
who hired workers at various hours of the day and paid the ones who had worked
only a few hours the same daily wage as those who worked all day. He did not treat the late arriving workers as
outsiders who should receive short-pay and those who worked all day as insiders
deserving a bonus. Jesus said of God’s
kingdom, “The last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Then we heard of the son who became
his society’s outsider for shaming his father when he refused to work in the
vineyard. The insider was his brother,
who quickly agreed to do his father’s bidding.
But the outsider reconsidered and went to the vineyard after all, while
the insider reneged and failed to do his father’s will. Jesus said to the elders of the people, “Tax
collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.”
Last weekend the insiders were the
ones given a vineyard to tend for a landowner but who at harvest time refused
to give him the produce due the owner.
Instead, they mistreated and killed his messengers, even his son. So the landowner killed the tenant farmers
and gave his vineyard to the care of outsiders.
Jesus said to the elders of the people, “The kingdom of God will be
taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
And the thread continues today: insiders / outsiders. As a noted preacher observed a hundred years
ago, “When I arrive in heaven I expect to be surprised by three things: first,
to see who is there; second, to discover who is not there; and last, to arrive there myself.” 
God does not measure insiders and outsiders as humans do.
In today’s parable Jesus draws our
attention to those invited to a wedding feast.
To our own celebrations we naturally invite people we like. So did this king to his son’s wedding. But some of the insiders refused to
come. Don’t know why. But that’s A-listers for you; somewhat
self-important. So the king went to his
B-list. They are “sort-of” insiders, but
not top shelf. Many of these were
distracted by other things engaging their attention: they got a better offer or they were busy
with farm or business. Finally the king
invited outsiders from the main roads and streets the “bad and good alike.”
If we were to pull the thread that
weaves through these parables what will unravel is an understanding that the
least here on earth, the outsiders, are valued beyond measure in God’s
kingdom. Perhaps the response called for
is that you and I might have to alter our perspective on who are the insiders
and the outsiders. And we might have to
soften our hearts and act differently toward some unexpected people.
There is a universality in God’s
call to intimacy with himself. In Jesus
we discover the living example of how God reaches out to those whom righteous
people may discount as unworthy: the last to the vineyard’s work, the
disrespectful but penitent son, the replacement tenant farmers; the tax
collectors and prostitutes, the stone that the builders rejected, the last who
will become first. What a revelation of
God’s abundant mercy!
But in celebrating God’s mercy we
may become complacent, even wishy-washy.
We are tempted to think the Kingdom of God has no standards other than
mercy and forgiveness. Here we get into
the area of moral relativism, where there are no standards. And even if there are standards, God will
forgive us everything. So why bother?
But in God’s kingdom there are
standards and there are expectations. We
hear of the man lately invited to the wedding feast of the king’s son but who was
not wearing a wedding garment. There
have been several explanations for this man’s situation. But the clearest one is that he had no
excuse. When confronted for the absent
wedding garment, “He was reduced to silence.”
He had accepted the invitation to the king’s banquet, but he would not
conform himself to that occasion, that celebration. As Jesus said, “Many are invited, but few are
So, in addition to softening our
hearts toward the so-called outsiders – as humans judge these people – we must
also consider our own acceptance of the invitation to enter the kingdom of
God. We have come into the presence of
the Body and Blood of Christ in this assembly, on this altar. While some of our brothers and sisters have
refused Christ’s invitation outright (for they do not worship with us at the
Eucharist), at the same time we who have responded to the invitation may
sometimes take Christ for granted. We
have become lackadaisical. At least we
go to Mass! But each of us must examine
ourselves. Have we fully conformed
ourselves to God’s kingdom, to the Body and Blood of Christ? Are we living as disciples – right there in
the celebration of our faith? Or are we
hiding in the shadows, refusing to don the wedding garment of Christian
As the words of institution are
spoken over the bread and wine, the priest says of Christ’s Blood that it “will
be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The invitation
goes out to all God’s creatures, “many” will hear the call and respond
wholeheartedly, but not everyone will.