Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
CLOSE TO US,
BUT FAR AWAY
The Bible is, of course, filled with the consciousness of God.
God who creates the universe. God who guides the patriarchs and matriarchs. God who leads Israel out of slavery in Egypt. God who makes a covenant with the people. God who gives them the promised land. God who grows impatient and angry with his “stiff-necked” people. God who brings them back from exile. And for us Christians, God who sends his only Son to redeem and to heal us. God whose love is tender, and infinite, and unconditional.
Along with this strong consciousness of God’s presence in virtually every facet of their lives, there is also a nagging perplexity - a sense that God is barely known and far different than anything or anyone we might imagine.
The paradox of the God of the Scriptures is that he is both very near and very far.
This conviction runs through our first reading from the prophet Isaiah. “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his ways and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the Lord for mercy, to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
But with the same breath, the prophet utters God’s caution: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways about your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.”
The Responsorial Psalm shares this same ambivalence of God, one who is both near and far. “The Lord is near to all who call upon him” but also, “Great is the Lord and highly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.”
The Gospel, Jesus’ parable of the laborers in the vineyard, has this same sense of paradox about the ways of God. The owner goes out and hires workers to tend the vineyard at different times during the day, starting at dawn with the first group and in the evening hiring some laborers barely an hour before the end of the workday.
All of us are perplexed by the ending of this story. Those who worked all day long in the heat are paid the same as those who worked only an hour. Where is the justice in that? But the words of Jesus in reply remind us of Isaiah’s warning: “God’s ways are not our ways.”
The owner of the vineyard responds to the workers who complain: “My friend, I am not cheating you. … Or are you envious because I am generous?”
God’s generosity is not bound by our rules. Moreover, God’s love is unconditional and often inexplicable. God embraces both the sinner and the saint. (Our inclination might be to give up on the sinner and invest all of our time and effort on the saint.)
The Scriptures this Sunday respect the transcendent and mysterious character of God while, at the same time, exulting in God’s love and tenderness.
That holds especially with regard to Jesus, who is the human embodiment of the transcendent God.
No one has greater love than Jesus, who laid down his life for us. But, at the same time, the Gospels testify to the mystery of his presence:
walking on the water; transfigured on the mountaintop; crying out in anguish at the moment of death; appearing in unexpected moments to his disciples in the breaking of the bread.
This is the divine presence we are to seek all our lives.
We hear the ardor of this kind of searching faith in today’s second reading, from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.
The apostle Paul is caught between his love of Christ and fidelity to his mission of preaching the Gospel.
“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit,” he says. Ultimately, Paul left that to God to determine.
In our piety, in our prayer, and in our daily living and obedience to his word, we must always respect that God is God, and we are not.
Sometimes we make God over in our image, but the goal of divine revelation and of our progressive being-made-over in Christ, is to be fashioned in the image and likeness of God.
The God of mystery is not wholly proximate and predictable. The Scriptures today remind us that the God we seek is
both more intensely loving and mysteriously elusive than any reality we can know.
In the face of such mystery, we close with a prayer: Be at one with our selves, Christ. When the world sees us, let it behold you and your glory within everything we do and are.
Receiving Holy Communion
Some reminders: 1. In keeping with the Covid-19 protocols of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Holy Communion is to be received only in the hand at this time. 2. Unless you are members of the same family and live together, you are asked to keep social distancing of six feet between yourself and the next person in line. 3. Please sanitize your hands before coming forward to receive the Body of Christ.
Today is Catechetical Sunday, when we pray for all in our parish faith formation, sacramental preparation programs, and the Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults and Children. This year’s theme is “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you” (1 Cor 11:23).
The blessing of catechists will take place during the 8:00am Mass. Please pray for Bea Bailey, Nelson de los Santos, Tim and Betty Fierro, David Gutierrez, Monica Lozano, Makayla Nunez, Veronica Nunez, Charles and Janice Oualline, Cynthia Rangel, and Deacon Vincent Scheel.
St. Joseph's Church Downtown is open
with the usual schedule
of weekday and weekend Masses, sacraments, and ministry. Because of increased coronavirus cases locally, social distancing, hand-sanitizing, and the use of a face mask are observed during church services, in order to keep everyone safe and healthy.
Videos of Sunday Mass and other Masses from St. Joseph's
are posted on YouTube at the St. Joseph Church Downtown Media page. Special thanks to John Francis Strelchun and his parents for filming and editing these videos so beautifully. Some Masses are also live-streamed.
In a spirit of caring for each other in these difficult days,
we encourage you to support efforts to feed our neighbors in need via Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Antonio and area food banks.
Thank you for supporting St. Joseph
through our parish website (
) or Give Central (
Anthony Schueller SSS
on Monday, September 21 at 9:53AM