Renaissance artists often pictured John the Baptist and Jesus as cute-as-can-be-infants together as cousins. Mark has none of it! In his gospel, John is a full-grown, wild-eyed prophet with divine fire in his heart!
As our human imagination fails us in picturing that which we have not yet seen, as with our earth before the Apollo missions or the universe before Hubble, so it is with God. Our images of God were so feeble compared to the reality of "God Among Us", Jesus Christ.
We can learn from television's domestic diva how to set a perfect Thanksgiving table and how to cook the perfect Thanksgiving turkey, but it is easy to find we have celebrated the great feast of Thanksgiving without much giving of thanks. Today's parable from Matthew's Gospel helps pull us back to the foundational attitudes of the heart that put the "thanks" back into Thanksgiving.
"Practice what you preach!" Great advice, but so hard to live. In fact, how could we actually, fully practice what we preach when what we preach, profess, proclaim, and teach is this beautiful Way of Jesus? We fail at it all the time! So what is to be done...not preach? Maybe not...look to Paul who knows he is a fragile vessel of the Word of God, yet proclaims it anyway!
This is a tough parable for many of us...it has some big twists that leave us scratching our heads. Once told, we can't help but wonder why the one guy who came in from the street was summarily thrown out of the King's wedding feas for his son. Hmmm...
The three consecutive vineyard parables of Matthew's Gospel culminate today in the most challenging of all. Jesus lets the Jerusalem big-shots have it with this third tale to be staged in a vineyard.
A lot of folks don't like today's parable from Jesus! It is just not fair...it is just not just, that those who work one hour get paid the same as those who work eight or ten! But is this really the point of Jesus' parable? Nope!
With a school community not far from us having just experienced the horror of a "school shooting" (one student lost, three others injured), today's readings are very much apropos to the hard realities of the human heart's dark side...and a serious examination of our own hearts. Do we ourselves "hug tight" wrath, anger, and vengeance or do we follow the way of Jesus: praying for our persecutors and asking the Father to forgive them for they do not know what they do?
Peter is among those who see life as a big bowl of cherries, or at least so it seems from today's Gospel. He cannot abide the thought of Jesus (or himself) having to endure suffering, humiliation, death itself. Jesus challenges his "bowl of cherries" mentality...and ours...by calling Peter...and us...to bear our crosses with self-giving love and thus transform them into trees of life.