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This Sunday's Programme

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26th Sunday Year A

Sunday 1st October 2023

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Mt 21:28-32

After having cleansed the temple, the religious authorities questioned Jesus regarding his authority to do such things. Jesus countered by questioning what they thought of John the Baptist. When they were caught in a quandary about how to answer, he told the following parable.

‘What’s your opinion? A certain man had two children. He went in one morning and said his first son, still lying in bed, “Son, you go out and work in the vineyard this morning.” The boy replied, “No way,” and rolled back under the covers. But after some time, he thought better of his behaviour, got up, went out and did as he had been told. The father had gone on down to his other son, giving the same order, but this boy readily replied, “Certainly, Dad,” and then he went straight out, off past the vines and went fishing. Which of the two did their father’s will?”’ ‘The first,’ they replied.

And Jesus said to them, ‘Now I’m telling you, the tax-collectors and prostitutes, the people you regard as rotters, will be getting into the Kingdom of God ahead of you.’

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 24:4-9.

God, teach my heart your ways,
let me know the path I should take.
Let your truth lead and guide me.
Each and every day be the God of my salvation.

Remember your compassion, your kindness –
wider, deeper and longer than eternity.
Remember not my youthful sins, my stupid actions.
In your goodness, remember me.

God is good and righteous,
trying to show sinners the right track,
guiding the humble in the best path,
showing the lowly the way of life.

 

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving God, you desire for us the fullness of life and you work in our lives to bring this about. Open the ears of our hearts to hear your voice in the demands of daily life. Send us your Spirit that we respond with the love of Jesus to the people around us. We make this prayer in his name, confident that you will hear us.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

Jesus has come into Jerusalem, cleansed the temple, healed the sick and lame, and the religious authorities are indignant. They confront him, questioning his authority, and Jesus goes on the offensive trying to jolt them out of their self-satisfied ways. By asking for their assessment of the authority of John’s baptism he puts them on the spot – they cannot say it was from humans because the people would condemn them. They cannot say it was from God because their own words would condemn then. Now, with them caught on the wrong foot, Jesus directs three parables at them, the first of which we hear this Sunday, the other two in the coming Sundays.

Jesus wants their conversion and, with this initial straightforward parable, he uses a very simply observation about human beings to both challenge and encourage: we say one thing and do another. The experience he draws on is that of nearly every parent who tries to nurture a child into maturity. From experience they probably would have had, he holds up to them a mirror to the inconsistency of their behaviour and, at the same time, offers them the possibility to change. They do not have to stay the same. Change is possible.

The tax-collectors and prostitutes were regarded as two groups whose lifestyle alienated them completely from the Law of God. To respectable authorities they were the ‘rotters’ of society. In contrasting the religious authorities unfavourably to them, Jesus could hardly express more his condemnation of the way they used the Law. From being a way of life that was supposed to open them to God, they had used it to become rigid and self-satisfied. Ironically it was people from these two groups, condemned by the Law-practising authorities, who were able to recognise the grace of God when it came in John the Baptist and, even more so, in Jesus.

 

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

How do you know the will of God in your life? That is always a hard question, partially because it is so intensely personal. We know that God’s love surrounds us and that God’s desire for us is to live in the fullness of life yet we often feel frustrated and uncertain of what is happening, or rather not seeming to happen, in our lives.

What follows is my own personal response to the question. Except in exceptional circumstances, the will of God is found in the ordinary situation in which I find myself: the demands of my life commitment. In this Sunday’s parable, the request the father made to the two sons was a request to help with the normal daily work, something that did not seem exciting. At the end of the day, the son, who first refused then went, would have the sense of knowing that he had done the right thing. The other son would have the hollow sense of lost opportunity, even if he had passed a pleasurable day doing his fancy.

But there are exceptional circumstances; times when God calls me down another track. At these times, there is an inner compulsion that seems to be pushing me. Knowing how I can be deluded by my own personal enthusiasms, I now look for some sign, exterior to me, that confirms the inner compulsion. If none appears, I’ve learnt to put the enthusiasm on the back burner.

This is my way of looking at the issue. It comes from looking back over the patterns of my life and seeing how the will of God has been revealed. That is a crucial step for each of us. Learning what we are to do in the present, we need to see the way the hand of God has shaped our lives in the past.

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

First impressions count…with us humans they often do, but not with God. God looks not only to the heart but also to our actions. There is a saying somewhere in the works of St Thomas Aquinas: do follows be. That is, what we are is shown in our actions. Our ideals may inspire people, our words may move them, but God sees the heart and will judge us according to our deeds.

Does that seem disturbing? Yes and no. If we place great store on appearances this may upset us because we know that our actions are done for show. But if we are trying to live simply before God, it will be liberating. God is not asking us to do things we cannot do. We do not have to fast seriously, pray for hours on end or be very ascetical. Jesus has already saved us – we are free. We do not have to prove anything. But we do have to pass on what we have known: the mercy and kindness of God. Both of which we can show each and every day in the ordinary events of life. We simply have to put into practice the faith we profess.

 

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

 

The Parable of the Two Sons by  Eugène Burnand.

Why does he eat with taxcollectors and sinners by Sieger Koder.

This is a painting  of James Tissot in which Jesus is asserting his authority.

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

The request made by the father to his sons in this Sunday’s Gospel was a request for normal every-day help within that society. This week mull over that attitude that you bring to the daily demands made upon you. As you do the usual cooking and cleaning chores, shopping and work, the following of road rules etc., mull on how these are God’s call of love to you.

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of God.

When you are at rest, consider how you have known God’s call in your life. Think of the times you have followed God’s call willingly and happily, the times when you have neglected that call. What effects did your differing responses have in your life?

Resting in God’s love, consider where you think God is calling you now. Is there an area you virtually refuse to look at, a situation that you just skim over because of the cost to you? Resting in God’s love, try to consider what answering that call could be like. Ask for the wisdom and strength of the Holy Spirit.

Rest in the love of God.