25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

In today’s parable Jesus talks about “how much” the landowner pays his servants. As the sun rises he “went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.” He agreed to pay the “usual daily wage.” All is as it should be.

At nine o’clock the landowner hired more laborers. Since the work day had already started, they would not work a full day. So, he agreed to pay them what is “just”. There was no discussion about a dollar amount,. He goes out again at noon and 3 pm, hires more workers, and agrees to pay them what is just.

When he goes out at five o’clock, he finds laborers still without work to do. When asked, they tell him they have not been working because no one had hired them. (It’s not that they are lazy.) So, he hires them to finish out the day.

At the end of the day, the laborers who worked only the last hour are paid the “usual daily wage” along with everyone else. Those who worked the whole day feel cheated. They were not cheated. The landowner paid them what they agreed to.

Yet, it does seem unfair. In our human understanding, the more we work the more we get paid. It’s what seems fair, a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. We should ask ourselves what the “usual daily wage” was based on. It was determined by what a person needed to provide for their family for a day. What is “just” to pay a person enough to provide for their family.

When the laborers who worked the whole day complain, the landowner responds, “Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?” In paying the laborers who only worked part of the day, he is not “overpaying” them. He is choosing to be generous. It may not make sense in human terms. So what? As the Lord says in our first reading, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.

This parable is often used to talk about just wages as I just did. However, as with all things with Jesus, there is also a spiritual meaning to the parable. Who can be saved?

The Israelites were supposed to spend their entire lives following God’s commands. What about the people who did not grow up as Israelites (or Christians today)? Can they be saved?

Of course they can. Salvation is not something we earn based on many years we spend following Jesus. It is a gift from God. Receiving the gift, we are to follow Jesus as the way and the truth and the life, showing our gratitude for the priceless gift we are given.

As a gift, God can give salvation to anyone He chooses. He chooses to give it to anyone who seeks him, young or old. Death bed conversions are real as the long as the person is genuine in giving their heart to Christ.

We are created to be with God in Heaven for eternity. Salvation is gift that is not forced on us. As Isaiah writes, “Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near.” To seek the Lord, we must open our hearts to allow the Lord to change us so that, as Paul writes, we can say “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.

If we follow Jesus, the way we live will proclaim Christ to the world. If we follow Jesus, earthly death will take us to eternity in Heaven. Until then, we are to ask the Lord to make fruitful our labor in this world to lead all to him.


Fr. Jeff

New Series on Discipleship

I am happy to say I will be beginning a new series of presentations in October exploring what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  The series is called Made for Discipleship.  

Honestly, I am a little behind on my preparation, having just finished the gender article I posted about yesterday. With that done, I can devote more time to this series on discipleship.  For parishioners here, there will be an in-person presentation.  For those who can’t come in person, it will be offered as a webinar at 6:30 pm each evening.  The dates are 

  • Thursday, October 26th 
  • Thursday, November 9th  
  • Thursday, December 7th  

You can register for Part I at https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_-1ncSptURpK5-hJ7AkAlUw.


Fr. Jeff

Promoting Understanding

Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know that I am passionate about helping people understand Catholic teaching. With that in mind, I have just finished the largest paper I have ever written and put it on my website. I wrote simply to help people understand a very difficult topic, gender.

This paper should not be used as a weapon against transgenderism. It is a tool to promote understanding and compassionate dialogue. It is writing with loving concern for those who struggle with confusion about their gender, for their families, and to help everyone act in a Christian way towards those who struggle with gender confusion.

That being said, the document is Towards Dignity and Truth:  Compassionate Dialogue and Pastoral Response on Transgenderism. You can use this link to access this document directly. You can find other articles I have written on our Catholic understanding of sexuality at “Catholic Morality and Sexuality” on my website.

Please read this with an open heart and I suggest not trying to read it all at once.


Fr. Jeff

The Hidden Depths of the Mass #7

The Importance of Music

Music has long been part of how people give thanks and praise to God.  We hear of how the people sang in thankful response to God’s action in their lives in Exodus 15, Numbers 21:17, Judges 5, and in 2 Samuel 6:5.

The chief document for the way we celebrate Mass is The General Instruction of the Roman Missal.  It speaks of the importance of singing at Mass in paragraph 39: 

“The Christian faithful who come together as one in expectation of the Lord’s coming are instructed by the Apostle Paul to sing together Psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles (cf. Col 3:16). Singing is the sign of the heart’s joy (cf. Acts 2:46).”

Singing at Mass is not just for musicians.  It is for the musicians and the people in the pews to join in the singing (paragraph 40) as we all give thanks and praise to God.

(For previous articles in this series, go to http://www.renewaloffaith.org/bulletin-series-on-the-mass-2023.html)

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Homily

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Sirach 27:30-28:7
Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12 (8)
Romans 14:7-9
Matthew 18:21-35
September 17, 2023

Last week we heard Jesus give us instructions on what to do when our brother sins against us.  Deacon Tom talked about our need to forgive others.  Our readings today continue on the theme of forgiveness.

Why is it important for us to forgive others?

As Sirach writes “Wrath and anger are hateful things.”  When we hold onto our anger and wrath, we fill our hearts with hate instead of love.

This can hurt us more than the original offense.  The original offense may be done and over with but if we hold onto the anger, it affects us everyday until we let go of the anger. 

This is the “anger” that I see as one of the seven deadly sins.  There can be a momentary anger that we feel when we see an injustice but we don’t hold on to it and it doesn’t control us.  We immediately let go.  That’s an emotion.  However, when we hold onto our anger, it can begin to control us. 

Amish people are known for their forgiveness.  There’s a book called Amish Grace (Kraybill, Donald B., Steven M. Nolt, David L. Weaver-Zercher.   Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy. Jossey-Bass (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) 2007.) that speaks about the shooting at an Amish school in Pennsylvania in 2006.  The book tells the story of the Amish response of forgiveness to the shooter. 

We should note that Amish forgiveness doesn’t eliminate justice.  They just leave that to the police and the court system (see page 170). 

In a shooting, we might wonder if forgiveness is even possible.  The Amish understand the need to let go.  Sirach says, “Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD?” 

When we hold on to anger, we prevent God from healing us of our hurt.

Peter asks Jesus “how often must I forgive?  As many as seven times?

Jesus answers with “seventy-seven times.”  If you wonder how often you need to forgive someone, I suggest you ask yourself how often you have needed to ask for forgiveness.

Of course, besides letting go of the hurt, the “other” reason that we need to be willing to forgive is so that we might be forgiven ourselves.  As Sirach says, “Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for our sins.

In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Do you mean the second part?

Jesus tells the parable of the king who decides to settle his accounts with his servants.  One owes him a huge debt and has no way to repay it.  The servant begs for more time to pay it back.  The master forgives him but the servant is later unwillingly to forgive another person who owes him a much smaller amount.  The master punishes him for his lack of forgiveness. 

The servant begged his master for forgiveness.  Do we appreciate the forgiveness Jesus offers us on the Cross?  Or do we take it for granted?

When we recognize our need for forgiveness from God, how do we seek it out?

God has given us a special sacrament for this, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  We call it “confession” because we are confessing our sins. 

Why confess them?  God already knows our sins.  He was there when we committed the sins.  We confess them not to tell him what we did but as proof that we realize how we have sinned and that we repent.

Before we confess our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we are called to examine our conscience so that we can confess all our mortal sins since our last confession. 

In conjunction with that, we should think about those we need to forgive and to actually forgive them so we can let God heal us.

Why don’t we want to forgive?  Sometimes it is pride.  We say we shouldn’t have been treated that way or sometimes it is because we want to make sure we aren’t taken advantage of in the future.  Sometimes we think they are the ones who did the wrong.  So, they need to repent first and ask for forgiveness. 

What good does it do you to hold on to the anger?

Forgive and be forgiven.

(For more on our struggle to forgive see my video presentation, Why Is It So Hard to Forgive Myself (and others)?)

The Hidden Depths of the Mass #6

The Procession
As each person arrives for Mass, they find a seat in the pews.  It is a good time to pray in silence as you wait for the Mass to begin.  When it is time for Mass to begin, the altar servers, lectors, and clergy process in.  Their procession is symbolic of the entire congregation gathering together in church to praise God.  The congregation stands as the procession enters, seeing the priest’s entry as symbolic of God entering.  When an important person arrives, do we not stand in reverence for them?  Who is more important than God? 

During the procession, we are all called to join in song praising God.  Recall how the crowds cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David” as Jesus entered Jerusalem.  

You can find previous articles in this series online at http://www.renewaloffaith.org/bulletinmass .

One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church

Last Saturday I read a news story (Sarah Maddox, “Why thousands of U.S. congregations are leaving the United Methodist Church.” September 9, 2023. CBSnews.com.). You may remember that in 2019, the United Methodist Church held a conference that discussed same-sex relationships. Since then there have been whole congregations that have left the United Methodist Church over this.

I wish that we in the Catholic Church had no such problems. I have not heard in recent years of any whole parishes leaving the Catholic Church but it is no secret that individuals are leaving the Catholic Church over dissenting views on such issues. I’ve seen surveys that show that the number of former Catholics is growing and larger than the number of some Protestant denominations. The good news is that we do have people join the Catholic Church each year through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). Some are coming into the Catholic Church precisely because it holds to traditional teachings.

Unfortunately, there are those who want to change Catholic teaching. While they exist in various countries, perhaps the most visible presently are German Catholics who recently completed a synod where votes were held and passed to pursue changes in Catholic teaching (see Catholic News Agency stories under the category “German Synodal Way”).

It saddens me to see this. I do not hear explanations for their desire to change Catholic teaching based on biblical principles and in continuity with the historical teachings of our faith.

There are also individual “Cafeteria Catholics”. The term “cafeteria” means that they pick and choose what they belief. Some knowingly choose to reject some Catholic teaching. Otherwise, because of poor catechesis growing up (that may be no fault of their own) simply don’t know what or why the Catholic Church teaches what it does. This too saddens me. I pray for them and I do what I can through presentations and my website to help people understand Catholic teaching.

In the Nicene Creed we profess our faith in “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” This is very important to me. I hope it is important for you. As the Catholic Church, we are not a bunch of individuals who come together for Mass who hold some teachings in common. We are called to be “one.” In chapter 17 of the Gospel of John, Jesus offers his high priestly prayer for us, “so that they may be one, as we are one” (verse 22) We are to be united in the Truth that Jesus gives. Being Catholic is not about having our own way. It is about being “one” with God.

The Catholic Church is also “apostolic.” This means that our Catholic faith has been handed down from generation to generation over 2,000 years from Jesus, through the Apostles, and guided by the Holy Spirit. Over 2,000 years the world has changed. Technological change in the 100 years has greatly changed the world. Led by the Holy Spirit, Catholic teaching has developed to the changes in the world but it has done so in continuity with the past.

There are people today who want to determine their own truth. I don’t. In fact, I said in my presentation, Where Do We Go For Truth?

Faith is not about getting our own way. It is about realizing that God has a better way. I am not all-knowing. God is. I know that Jesus died for me and so I am willing to trust him rather than seek my own way.

In John 14:6, Jesus explicitly says in clear terms, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Jesus does not say, “let me show you a way” or a truth or a life. He shows us the truth. It is his Truth that will set us free (John 8:32) to be what we are created to be.

Being “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church” stands at the heart of what it means to be Catholic. I don’t see how creating our own truth is in any way consistent with a belief in God who is all-knowing and all-loving. In faith, we trust in God even when we don’t understand.

Be sure to learn all you can about our Catholic faith. Learn what you can about our Catholic faith and trust in God for the rest. Remember the second half of John 14:6, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”


Fr. Jeff

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” In the Act of Contrition we “firmly resolve to sin no more and to avoid whatever leads us to sin.”

Avoiding temptation is not easy. We need God’s help. We need to avoid temptation and we are called to help others do the same.

Our first reading for this Sunday speaks of our call to help others avoid sin. The Lord has appointed Ezekiel the prophet as a “watchman for the house of Israel.” We are all called to be prophets through baptism. Ezekiel was a “full-time” prophet. Not everyone is called to be a “full-time” prophet but everyone is called to share the Word of God in some way.

If the Lord gives us a message to warn the wicked of their sins, we are called to deliver the message. If we don’t, “the wicked shall die for his guilt.” and the Lord will hold us responsible for their death.

However, if we “warn the wicked…and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself.” We are not responsible for their choice to sin but we are responsible for our decision to speak or not the Lord’s warning.

We pray that we have the courage to speak what the Lord tells us. We pray that the recipients listen and repent.

One question, do you speak up to help the other person or do you speak up to save your own neck?

The first reading speaks of helping people avoid sin. Unfortunately, not everyone will listen because they have hardened their hearts. In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us what to do if our brother has sinned against us.

The first step is to “go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” Don’t rush to get others involved. Maybe there is a misunderstanding. Maybe they didn’t know how it made you feel.

If they don’t listen, Jesus says to take two or three others to help them understand. Only if they still don’t listen are you to “tell the church.” If they don’t listen to the church, treat them “as you a Gentile or a tax collector.

Why go through these steps? Are you trying to prove yourself right or are you trying to help them understand the error of their ways so that they can repent and be saved?

If we warn others of their sin just to save our own neck, we are missing the bullseye. If we want to prove ourselves right, we are missing the bullseye. We may be doing something good but not entirely for the right reason.

What is the right reason?


Paul writes to the Romans today speaking of the commandments against adultery, killing, stealing, and coveting. It is important to keep these commandments. Why? Because these commandments “are summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love neighbor as yourself.

Our motive should be “love.” We warn others of their sin out of love. We point others’ sins out because we love them. Because we love them, we want them to be saved.

Do you love others enough to ask God for the words and the courage to help lead others from sin?


Fr. Jeff

The Hidden Depths of the Mass #5

The Hidden Depths of the Mass #5

Before we enter our pew we genuflect.  When we come up for Communion we bow before we receive Communion.  Why?  Because our gestures mean something.  In this case, they signify our reverence for the presence of our Lord in int Tabernacle and in the Eucharist.

We genuflect to the presence of the presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle and when the Blessed Sacrament is in the monstrance on the altar.  We genuflect because we believe Jesus our King is present in the Eucharist.

We offer a bow of the head when naming Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together and at the name of Jesus.  We do this in recognition of who they are, God!  We bow at the words, “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary”, and became man” because we know Jesus humbled himself to become human to save us.

You can read past articles in this series of bulletin articles on my own website at www.renewaloffaith.org/bulletinmass . 

The Speed of Change

Some people love change. I’m not one of them but I do believe some change is natural and not necessarily something to be feared. Change can be good.

There is change we seek. It might starting a new job that we very much want. It might be starting a new relationship with a wonderful person. There is change we don’t want. It might the loss of a great job or a breakup of what we had thought was a wonderful relationship.

The world is full of change. Today I would like to talk about how fast change comes. Do we rush ourselves into something or do we take time to think it through?

Where is this coming from? Believe it or not, I came up with the idea for this article from reading an article about lightbulbs. Yes, lightbulbs (David Schechter, Haley Rush, and Chance Horner, “LED lights are erasing our view of the stars — and it’s getting worse.” September 1, 2023. cbsnews.com. https://www.cbsnews.com/detroit/news/light-pollution-makes-stars-invisible/?intcid=CNM-00-10abd1h).

The article discusses how LED lights are changing our night sky and much more. The authors remind us that in 2007 Congress mandated that light bulbs become three times more efficient. This sounds good. It would save us electricity and save us dollars. We all like to save dollars and saving electricity is good for the environment (how good depends on how the electricity is produced; coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar, etc.).

So, at first glance, this would seem to be a very good change. What happened? The news story discusses light pollution. According to the story, “the night sky is getting 10% brighter every year.” They call this light pollution.

They also talk about how the bright nights hurt our sleep cycle, which they say increases cancer risks and heart disease. They say the light pollution is resulting in a decline in insect population and more bird deaths as the birds fly into brightly lit buildings.

Where am I going with this? Congress started with a desirable change, saving electricity and saving money. However, there have been side effects. Did we know about the side effects but choose to ignore them? Or did we rush to find more efficient light bulbs and didn’t bother to consider potential side effects?

We need to consider side effects when considering change. Of course, the change I am most interested in isn’t the efficiency of light bulbs or its effect on insect population.

I’m interested in the speed of moral change in society. For example, in 1996 the U.S. Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act which stated that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Twenty years later, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. Support for same-sex marriage had been growing. My concern isn’t that we went from, say 40% to 60% supporting same-sex marriage (I don’t know the exact numbers. I use 40 and 60 to show a shift).

My concern is the flip of thought. Some of the same members of Congress who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act have switched from banning same-sex marriage to proactively supporting it without a definitive reason. Well, a reason apart from relativism that says there is no truth and people must be free to choose whatever they want. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I do not believe in relativism. I believe in truth, specifically God’s Truth, the truth that sets us free (John 8:32).

We have been on a slippery slope. In recent years, many identify the beginning of the present sexual moral slippery slope as the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. The development of the birth control pill had an important contribution here. Sex became separated from procreation (which is what Pope Paul VI feared when he wrote Humanae Vitae and maintained Catholic teaching against the birth control pill).

The birth control pill started (for many) with a good idea, to help people not have more children than they could properly provide for. (One might ask in a country with a high standard of living, what does “properly provide for” mean but that is not our topic today). However, on the negative side, separating sex from procreation has made sex purely a matter of physical pleasure for many. They have lost the sense that sexual intercourse is meant to be an expression of a deep, caring, and committed unity between a man and a woman. I see this, our Catholic faith sees this, as a negative effect.

Looking at potential medical side effects of the birth control pill, studies find a higher rate of breast cancer among women who use the birth control pill.

The slippery slope of sexual morality that we have been on since the sexual revolution of the 1960’s has brought us to the gender ideology of today. Gender ideology is a topic for another day.

Morally speaking one of my greatest concerns following the introduction of the birth control pill is that the idea of sex without consequences (i.e. pregnancy/children) has led to the objectification of the human person. The “other person” in open sex is a means for physical pleasure rather than a person to be loved. I am concerned that those who see sex merely as for physical pleasure might even be objectifying themselves, only concerned with the physical pleasures and not seeing themselves as a person with deeper needs.

I would doubt (at least I hope) that the people at the beginning of the sexual revolution and/or the development of the birth control pill foresaw what was going on as leading to the objectification of human beings as means for physical pleasure. Here I should make clear that I do not want to place all the ills of society today on the sexual revolution and the birth control pill.

My point today is this. We need to slow down and consider both the positive and negative effects of the direction the world is going. We need to think about how we decide which effects are positive and which are negative. For me, my faith says God decides what is good and what is bad.

I pray that the world slows down and take some much needed time to reflect on where we are at and where we are going. God created us to be free. The question we must ask ourselves is “do we make good use of our freedom”.


Fr. Jeff