The Feast of All Saints (Mt 5:1-12)

“God has a plan for your life!” You may well have heard these words before, possibly from someone preaching a sermon, but they contain a truth, and are found in the Bible, in words that God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer 29:11)

It can be hard to hold onto promises such as these, especially when times are difficult and the outlook is bleak. We need to ask ourselves the question, ‘Can we trust God?’ If the answer is ‘Yes’ then, whatever difficulties or hardships may come our way, we know that our future is in safe hands.

Our Christian life begins with Baptism, where we are washed with water in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Through Baptism we share in Christ’s Death and Resurrection, and are raised to new life in Him. We receive the Holy Spirit, Faith, Hope, and Love, and we are marked with the sign of the Cross to show that we belong to Christ. These are all manifestations of God’s Grace, unmerited kindness and generosity, but they are given for a reason. They are given to us so that we may love God and serve Him in this life, and be with Him in the next. Fundamentally, the point of being a Christian is to reside in Heaven. This is possible because of what Jesus Christ has done for us, out of love. This is the plan God has for our life, and this is why Jesus became man, lived, and died, and rose from the dead. God shows us both how to live, and what He has in store for us. We can have faith, and put our trust in a God who loves us. In the clear hope that, after our earthly life is over, we may enjoy eternity with God in Heaven. Most of all, in this hope, we can live lives of love, love of God and of each other, foreshadowing eternal heavenly joys. 

In our current culture we are not used to hearing this message. It sounds strange. We tend to think that holiness is for other people, certainly not us. But God wants each and every one of us to become a saint. He wants us to live in a world full of people trying to be saints. The Church is ‘a school for saints’, in which Christians try to live out their faith, cooperating with the grace of God. We do this when we let Christ live in us, so that we can say with the Apostle Paul:

‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.’ (Gal 2:20)

There is a paradox at work here, for when we truly let Christ live in us, we do not lose ourselves, but instead we find who we really are. We can then be the people God wants us to be, the people we were created to be. As Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel:

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Mt 16:25)

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of All Saints. On this day, in the eighth century AD, Pope Gregory III dedicated a chapel to All Saints in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It is a good thing to celebrate the fact that Heaven is full of saints, the Church Triumphant, who spend eternity praising God and praying for us. Just as we pray for our friends here on earth, it stands to reason that our friends in Heaven pray for us as well. It is reassuring to know that we are not alone in our quest to reach Heaven, and to know that those who are already there long for us to join them. 

If Heaven is our goal, how thenshould we live our lives on earth? Thankfully today’s Gospel gives us a template to follow, an example of what a Christian life looks like. 

The Sermon on the Mount (The Beatitudes) begins with the words which we have just read. It is important to notice that Jesus goes up a mountain to teach people. This brings to mind Moses ascending Mt Sinai and receiving the Ten Commandments of the Law. At one level what we have here is a New Law, a new way to understand how we should relate to God and to each other. It is a radical vision, which turns human expectations on their head. 

We constantly hear how the world around us values success and confidence, and looks up to the rich, and the powerful. In contrast to this, Jesus says to the gathered crowd:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:3)

‘Poor in spirit’ is not a term we are used to using, but it means the exact opposite of pride. It places humility as key to living a Christian life: knowing who we are, and our need for God. Only if we rely upon God, and not ourselves, and ask Him to work through us can we truly live out the Christian life. 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Mt 5:4)

We mourn those we love, those whom we see no longer in this life, because we love them, we miss them, we want to see them, and hold them, and talk to them. Our parting, while temporary, is still very painful. Thankfully the Kingdom of God, which Christ comes to bring, is a place of healing and comfort with the promise of eternal life. 

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Mt 5:5)

Gentle people are not weak: they know how to use their strength, and how not to use it. As Jesus will later say in Matthew’s Gospel: ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ (Mt 11:29). This is how God wants us to live as human beings. Christ is the example of gentleness we must follow. Once again, God’s vision of the future turns human expectations upside down. 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Mt 5:6)

Should we be devoted to God? Absolutely! Should we pray that His will is done on earth as it is in Heaven? Of course! Jesus taught us to pray this way. Our faith should influence how we live our lives, so that we work for the coming of God’s Kingdom here on earth. Clearly God wants to see our world transformed and has invited us to help in the process; and doing so gives us fulfilment.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Mt 5:7)

We see what God’s mercy looks like in Christ’s death for us on the Cross. In following Christ’s example, we ask for forgiveness for our own sins, and forgive those who sin against us. This forgiveness can transform us and the world around us, and it is how the healing and reconciliation of God’s Kingdom functions. 

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Mt 5:8)

To be pure in heart is to want what God wants: to align our will with the will of God. It is to be saintly, and thus have the promise of Heaven, which is less of a place or a time, and much more a relationship. To see God is know Him, and to know His love for us. This is what Christ comes to restore to humanity, and it is our hope. 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Mt 5:9)

First and foremost, we know that Christ is the Son of God because He made ‘peace by the blood of his cross’ (Colossians 1:20). We too are called to follow Christ’s example and take up our Cross, and work for peace. Peace in our own hearts and lives, in our families and communities and in our world.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (Mt 5:10-11)

Following Jesus will not make us popular, often quite the opposite. If, however, we want to see God’s Kingdom as a reality in this life and the next, then we must be prepared to be shunned, or even ridiculed by others. To follow Christ is to take up the Cross, and to expect persecution, and false accusation. But we are not alone in this, Christ has gone before us, showing us that the story does not end with death on a Cross, but the glory of the Resurrection and Eternal life. 

If we want to become saints, then we have to be like Christ, share in His suffering and death, be prepared to be rejected by the world, and dismissed as irrelevant. We may not face imprisonment, torture and death in this country, but many Christians around the world do. However, we may be scorned and ignored, or patronised. What do we do in such circumstances? We are called to be loving, generous, and forgiving, because that is what Jesus has shown us. We can be different to the world around us because we belong to a new community, the community of faith, built on our relationship with Jesus Christ, who came to save humanity from itself. He came that we might have life and have it to the full, and that is what the Beatitudes mean. By living the life of God’s Kingdom here and now, we can live the life of Heaven here on earth. It may sound foolish, but it is what God wants us to do, what Jesus showed us to do. We are called to be fools for God.

So let us, on this feast of All Saints, be filled with courage, and be ready to conform our lives to God’s will and live out our baptism and our faith in the world. May we  live the life of the Kingdom together, and encourage others in order that all may join the choirs of Heaven to sing the praise of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed, as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever. Amen.

30th Sunday of Year A

John, Paul, George, and Ringo, are not exactly what one might call theologians, but the title of their 1967 hit, ‘All You Need is Love’ does seem (at one level) to encapsulate the message of this morning’s readings. Our first reading from Exodus goes into detail regarding how we should treat others. Questions such as how we should we live and how we treat the weak and the marginalised are important as they demonstrate how we put our faith into practice in our lives. 

Sojourners are temporary residents, refugees, and as such they live in a precarious situation: they lack rights that citizens have and thus are weak and powerless. They can be easily mistreated. A society can, and will, be judged by how it treats those who are weak. Likewise widows and orphans are in a vulnerable position. Clear instructions are given by Moses to safeguard the poor, the economically vulnerable, who are not to be exposed to interest or lose the cloak off their back. 

All human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and are thus imbued with a fundamental dignity, and with rights. This is the foundation of human society, and it is the will of God. Any society must be judged on how it treats the weak, the vulnerable, the marginalised, and the poor. These words remain as true for us today as when they were spoken three thousand years ago. They should cause us to reflect on how the society in which we live functions. Are we loving and generous towards the weak and vulnerable? 

Love and generosity are at the heart of St Paul’s advice to the Thessalonian Christians. As he says to them:

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.’ (1Thess 2:7)

Paul’s treatment of people mirrors God’s treatment of us. Loving care and generosity are at the heart of the proclamation of the Christian Faith. Paul lives his faith out in practice, nourishing his offspring, and helping them to grow in faith and love. 

In today’s Gospel the questioning of Jesus in the Temple continues. The Pharisees send a legal expert to put Jesus to the test, to see whether His understanding of the Law of Moses is correct. And so the lawyer asks:

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Mt 22:36)

There are 613 commandments contained within Genesis to Deuteronomy, the first five books of the Bible. Clearly the question of which is the most important should be answered. And so Jesus replies:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mt 22:37-40)

The first commandment Jesus mentions can be found in Deuteronomy 6:5. It forms part of the Shema, which begins, ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one…’. This is recited every morning and evening by Jews when they pray. It defines who God is, and how we should relate to Him. We are to love God because God loves us and cares for us. God’s love makes demands of us, and requires all that we are, or think, or do to be motivated by love of God. 

Jesus then adds a second commandment, taken from Leviticus 19:18, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ This means loving our neighbours and ourselves as God loves us, with the same costly and generous love that our Creator has for us. Jesus cuts right to the heart of the Old Covenant to show that what he is teaching is the fulfilment rather than the abolition of the Law and the Prophets. We know from elsewhere in the Gospels that when someone asks the follow-up question, Our Lord tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, to show what costly love in action looks like. 

It is a big ask: in Leviticus God says ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.’ (Lev 19:2) As people created in the image of God, we are called to be holy, to be like God, to live out this love and holiness in our lives, in what we say and do, and in how we treat people. It is something we do together, as the body of Christ in the world. It is the work of a community and the work of a lifetime to put this love into practice in our lives. It sounds deceptively simple, but is very hard when we try to do it. We will fail, but the point is that God does not stop loving us, so we should not stop trying to love our God, our neighbour, or ourselves. 

Soon in the Gospel narrative Jesus will be tried and sentenced to die upon a Cross. This will, in fact, be the greatest demonstration possible of God’s love for humanity. Jesus shows us how much God loves His people by dying for them. Love is at the heart of Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God, and it is central to His understanding of Scripture, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mt 22:40). Our relationship with God and each other informs both who we are and how we act. We love God when we worship Him, when we listen to what He says and obey Him. We love our neighbour through living out the love and forgiveness which we have received through Christ, by showing the same love and care which Christ shows to us, in giving Himself to die for us, and to be raised to give us the hope of eternal life with Him.

Then it is Jesus’ turn to ask questions of the Pharisees, and so He asks about the Messiah, whom the Pharisees identify as the Son of David. This leads Him to ask: 

How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,

Sit at my right hand,

    until I put your enemies under your feet’?

If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” (Mt 22:43-45)

Jesus uses the Pharisees’ way of interpreting Scripture against them. As Christians we understand that Jesus is Lord, He is God, Son of God, and Son of David. Jesus puts an end to the questions and tests his inquisitors by showing who and what He is, something He will further demonstrate in His Passion, Death and Resurrection. 

God demonstrates His love for us, so that we be transformed by that love, filled with it, so that it can affect who we are and how we live. We live it out together, as a community, strengthening each other, building each other up in love, praying for our needs and those of the whole world. To do this we rely upon the God who loves us, and who gives Himself for us, transforming us by His Grace. 

So let us come to Him, so that we can be transformed more and more into His likeness, and invite others to so that they too may believe and give Glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed, as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever. Amen. 

29th Sunday of Yr A

Our first reading this morning from the prophet Isaiah is positive and hopeful. The people of Israel have been in captivity in Babylon for 70 years, but now there is the possibility of freedom . The Persian King, Cyrus will let the exiles return to Jerusalem, and rebuild the Temple. The passage is a testament to the sovereignty of God:

I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God’ (Isa 45:5)

God can use a secular ruler, such as Cyrus, to bring about the flourishing and freedom of His people. However, as much as we can respect authority, it is clear that our first duty is towards God, to love Him, and serve Him.

This is exactly what the original recipients of Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians have been doing. They have ‘turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come’ (1Thess 1:9-10). 

Our gospel this morning is all about a denarius, it is a small silver coin, about ¾ of an inch in diameter, the size of a modern 5p, or a penny. It was a day’s wage, the pay given to the labourers in the vineyard. A denarius was worth about £75 in today’s money and was the cost of the Roman Poll Tax. It’s amazing that such a small coin could have such a great value.

The conflict with religious authorities which has characterised our recent readings from the Gospel continues today with a wrangle over words. The Pharisees come to see Jesus with their students along with Herodians, supporters of Herod the Great, who were very much in favour of Roman rule. 

The Pharisees begin the conversation with flattery, trying to butter Jesus up:

“Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.” (Mt 22:16) 

And at one level they are completely right, Jesus is not interested in opinions or appearances. What matters is reality: how you really are, in all truth and honesty. This is what matters to God, not how we appear, but how we really are. 

So the Pharisees ask their question:

“Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Mt 22:17)

If Jesus says, ‘no’ then He will be allying himself with the zealots, religious extremists, and making a provocative political statement for which Jesus can be denounced to the authorities. On the other hand, if Jesus says, ‘yes’ then the Pharisees can write Him off as a collaborator with the Romans, and show that He is not one of us, not a real prophet, or a true son of Israel. All the Pharisees are interested in is understanding what Jesus says in political terms. Their opening pleasantries ring hollow, they don’t mean what they say. The point of their question is not to discover the truth, but to discover a way to denounce Jesus as either a zealot or a collaborator.

Thankfully, Our Lord is aware of their scheme, and so asks them,

“Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. (Mt 22:18-19)

Silver denarius of Tiberius

Jesus can see through their scheme, and subverts it, to serve His purpose, to  announce the Kingdom of God. Jesus asks the Pharisees to show Him a coin. He does not have one Himself, either because of poverty or because of the image on the coins. On one side of the coin is the head , and an inscription which reads ‘Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the god Augustus,’ On the other side the is an image of Jupiter seated on a throne and the end of the inscription, ‘High Priest.’ So the Pharisees bring Jesus the coin, and He asks,

“Whose likeness and inscription is this?” (Mt 22:20)

The Pharisees answer ‘Caesar’s’ leads to this reply from Jesus:

Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mt 22:21)

Whereas the Pharisees come filled with malice, and with a desire to catch Him out, Jesus instead uses this as an opportunity to show them the proper order of things. You should pay your taxes but also give to God what is owed to Him. That is a heart filled with love, love of God and love of each other. Living a life of offering which proclaims this love in the service of others and through the worship of Almighty God. This is where real power lies, and this is the truly subversive aspect of Jesus’ teaching. He proclaims in the Temple in Jerusalem, in the very heart of the religious establishment, in order to show people how to live, and live life to the full. Paying a Roman tax with a Roman coin is perfectly fine, but what matters much more is rendering to God the things that are God’s.

Jesus takes a trap and turns it into a teaching opportunity. The Pharisees wanted to dismiss Him as either a militant or a Roman stooge, but Jesus uses the situation to demonstrate the Kingdom of God in action. In His gentleness, His mockery of their pride and arrogance, Jesus shows the Pharisees how foolish they are. They claim to follow the Law, but have forgotten what its Spirit is. We may owe secular powers our taxes, but we owe God everything. He created us, and all that exists. 

Jesus is asking us all a difficult question. What do you and I, all of us, render to God in our personal lives? If we claim to be disciples, then what does that actually mean in the way that we speak and act?

We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves (Mt 22:37-40). We are to be generous, forgiving and kind, to the point of extravagance, because that is how God has been to us. It is a radically different way of living which demonstrates that while we are in this world, we are not of it. Instead, we render to God the worship which is His by right, not just in church, but in all of our lives.

Thus as Christians we follow a different set of rules, which give us lives of freedom. In the power of the Holy Spirit the Truth can be proclaimed, the truth which sets us free from the ways of the world, free to love and serve God. This liberty can be seen in the lives of the Thessalonian Christians to whom St Paul writes. Rather than worshipping idols, they labour for the living and true God, they are an example to Christians of how to live. Their lives proclaim the truth which they serve. 

Jesus is opposed to either the collaboration of the Herodians or the rigourist harshness of the Pharisees, and instead proclaims the freedom and love of the Kingdom of God. It is a place of welcome: the image is that of the wedding feast to which all people are invited. People are too busy or preoccupied to come; others just don’t want to be invited: they mistreat the people who invite them. But this does not stop the invitation being offered to all, it still is. It is why we are here today. We join the Wedding Feast and are nourished by Word and Sacrament, so that we can be strengthened in love and in faith, to proclaim the reality of the Kingdom of God. We are called to be an example to others and to draw them in to the loving embrace of God: to be healed and restored by Him. Because of what God has done for us, we are able to render to God the things that are God’s: lives characterised by the love and generosity which are at the heart of the Gospel. This is what really matters: living the life of the Kingdom here and now. 

Let us therefore come to Him, to be healed and renewed, strengthened, and built up in love, so that we may give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed, as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now, and forever. Amen. 

27th Sunday of year A

There have been a lot of vineyards in our readings recently. Jesus has just told a parable about labourers in a vineyard, which we heard two weeks ago, and now, this morning, two of our readings are all about vineyards. They are important things: they grow grapes which make juice and wine, which people drink. But more than that, at a symbolic level, the vineyard stands for Israel, the land of God’s chosen people. The metaphor of the vineyard allows both Isaiah and Jesus to talk about Israel and their relationship with God. They do not have much to say that is good. Our readings are sad, difficult, hard readings, which tell us the truth about falling short of what God expects of us, His people, who have been made in His image and likeness.

In our first reading today, the prophet Isaiah sings a love-song for his beloved, that is, God, who plants a vineyard on a hill, having prepared the soil and cleared away the stones. These actions are all signs of love and care. God defends the vineyard with a watchtower to give advanced notice of attack. There is also a vat in which to make wine out of the grapes. However, the grapes are wild, but wild grapes are weeds, which grow more vigorously, and their fruit is sour, not sweet. You cannot make good wine from sour grapes. This prophecy speaks of Israel being abandoned and destroyed. This is because God expects justice, but instead, is faced with bloodshed. God looks for righteousness, but instead, finds an outcry. The Hebrew for each pair of words is similar, so the prophet is using wordplay to make the point more strongly. Israel needs to repent, to turn back to God and follow His ways. 

The situation with the Phillipian Christians in our second reading is the complete opposite, and comes as a welcome relief. Here people are living how God wants them to and they are flourishing. They do not need to be anxious, or to worry about anything, as they can ask God in prayer for their needs. Their lives are characterised by peace which passeth all understanding. This is the same peace which I pray for all of us in the blessing at the end of this morning’s service. This peace is meant to characterise our life together as Christians: it how we are supposed to live together.

The apostle then finishes this section of his letter with some encouragement:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practise these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

These are good words to live by. They show us how we can flourish, following the example set by St Paul. Indeed, that is how Christianity helps us to lead our lives: we are shown a good example, and we follow it. That is how the faith has been transmitted for two thousand years, and will continue in the future, through the sharing of good examples. We can do this, together, as a Christian community, and in so doing, bear much fruit.

In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus continues to teach in the Temple, after His Triumphal entry on Palm Sunday. He has told the parable about labourers in a vineyard, and the parable of the two sons, and now He recited a parable about a vineyard and a son. Jesus sets the scene in a way which clearly refers to the prophecy of Isaiah which we have just heard. The chief priests and elders would have known the prophecy which Jesus was referring to. This parable has a number of servants being sent to collect the fruit:

And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than at first. And they did the same to them. (Mt 21:35-36)

This is a description of how Israel acts towards prophets, such as Isaiah. Despite telling the truth and telling the people God’s word, they are mistreated and killed. Again and again the prophets call God’s people to repentance, to turn back to the Lord, and they are ignored and mistreated. As a result, God sends His Son. As the parable continues:

Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. (Mt 21 37-39)

Here Jesus is prophesying His own death. Soon, despite having just been welcomed into Jerusalem as the Messiah, Jesus will see the crowds turn against Him.Encouraged by the chief priests and elders (who are listening to this parable) the people will call for Jesus’ Death. 

At the conclusion of the parable, Jesus asks the religious authorities what God will do, and they answer Him:

When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” (Mt 21:40-41)

Their answer is telling. The chief priests understand what is going on,  and that their actions will have consequences. Finally Jesus quotes from the Psalms (Ps 118:22) to explain the situation:

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.” (Mt 21:42-3)

Just like the prophet Isaiah earlier, Jesus uses clever word-play to reinforce His theme. Isaiah makes the point that the words for justice and bloodshed, and righteousness and an outcry are similar. Likewise, the Hebrew words for stone (eben, as in Ebenezer) and son (ben, as in Benjamin) are very similar, there is only one letter difference.

Jesus uses the Psalms to reinforce His interpretation of Isaiah. He is letting His listeners know that He must be rejected, suffer, and die. Jesus also makes clear  that salvation is now not solely for Israel, but also for the Gentiles, and in fact for anyone who produces the fruit that God desires them to produce. This is the Christian proclamation in a nutshell.

Despite being aware of what is going on, the religious authorities do nothing to avert the possible calamity. They are unwilling, or unable to stop it. That is a definition of tragedy. And yet, something wonderful is about to happen:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (Jn 3:16-17)

Despite Jesus’ rejection and death, it is God’s love and forgiveness that are being proclaimed to the world. The Kingdom of God is a place of reconciliation, where wounds are healed, and lives are restored. Love is the core of our faith: God’s love for us, and our love for each other and for God. This is how God transforms the world: through LOVE. God so loved the world, a world which He created, and restored, and redeemed. We, here, are living proof of that love, and we are given the task of tending the Lord’s vineyard. How can we live out that same generous love in our own lives? We need to work together, nourished by Word and Sacrament, and live lives of love and forgiveness. We are called to proclaim God’s love to the world, and to invite others to enter the joy of the Lord so that we all may sing the praise of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed, as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion and power, now and forever. Amen.

Diego Velazquez, The Crucifixion, 19632, Museo del Prado, Madrid