Tuesday, October 31, 2023



Happy Halloween! 


For many revelers today, Halloween is just an excuse for children - and increasingly for many adults - to dress in costume and extort candy from their neighbors (and even from perfect strangers). That adults also "trick or treat" seems to me to be bizarre at best, although in a society in which adults have now for decades imitated their kids in how they dress on a daily basis, perhaps it is not so bizarre that they should imitate kids in costume on Halloween as well. 


Halloween (as we now know it, in its reinvented 20th-century form) is a somewhat silly, kids' holiday. It is all about festivity and fun - with a residual recollection of traditionally transgressive behavior, its haunting spirit safely tamed. 


In the fairy tales with which we in my generation grew up, while the ending was usually a happily-ever-after one, the route to that happy ending was strewn with wicked witches and other formidably frightening forces. I remember as a child thinking how lucky we were to live in the present rather than once-upon-a-time when all those wicked witches and dragons and monsters were a regular threat. Of course, as I eventually learned, the witches and monsters were not literally real. But what they represented, the real evils lurking in the world for so much of human history, tormenting human beings and frustrating human hopes, were very real. 


Christianity claimed to have overcome the demonic powers through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and so started the process of disenchanting our experience of nature, which we increasingly aspired to control and tame to meet our increasing needs. Paradoxically now, nature has been transformed by our efforts to tame it, into an even more threatening apocalyptic monster in the form of humanly caused climate change.


Meanwhile, the Christian concept of Halloween as the celebration of God's triumph over evil has been increasingly replaced by a resurgent paganism, in which the demonic is celebrated as benevolent and even fun. Most of us no longer fear literal ghosts. Yet everywhere we are haunted by evil spirits of our own creation, which like nature in the form of climate change, are coming back to haunt us.


We are haunted by zombie ideologies that continue to block us from understanding (let alone responding to) contemporary problems. Way worse, however, we are haunted by our mutual hatreds and a kind of cultural civil war, which the worst among us have for decades now been encouraging us to fight. We are haunted by our divisions, which have weakened us, have separated us from one another, and have paralyzed the collective action called for to slay the dragons of our day.

Sunday, October 29, 2023



What a scene today’s Gospel suggests! Jesus could well be a modern political candidate (or perhaps a delegate at the Synod of Bishops) being pestered by the media, each group – Pharisees, Sadducees, scholars of the Law - posing some complex question, clearly trying to trap Jesus in his answer!

Like the earlier questions, this was intended to be tricky – tricky because the Law contains 613 commandments. Few, however, would have quarreled with Jesus’ answer, taken straight from the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 6. For centuries, both before Jesus’ time and since, devout Jews have recited those words daily. The lawyer had only asked for one commandment – the greatest one – but Jesus also offered him another – also a familiar one, from the book of Leviticus.

Nor was this some isolated injunction. Today’s 1st reading – from Exodus – illustrates just how demanding the Old Testament is in regard to how to treat one’s neighbor – especially the poor, the weak, the vulnerable. Hence, the Jewish law’s emphasis on just treatment of foreigners and immigrants. Of course, prejudice against foreigners is nothing new, nor was it confined to ancient Israel. The Old Testament repeatedly reminded the people that they too had once been foreigners and were descended from immigrants – as is true of all of us here today.

So, Jesus’ statement that the commandment to love one’s neighbor is like the commandment to love God was not some novelty. It is deeply rooted in the Jewish scriptures, which suggest that, when one wrongs one’s neighbor, one also offends God, in which case God’s wrath will make itself felt!

The two commandments are connected, Jesus tells the lawyer. Jesus is here setting out the essential basis for moral living – not something added on to the rest of one’s life, but its essential component. Obviously, the Bible does not offer quick and easy answers to each and every ethical question that may arise. But what it does do is to describe a relationship between God and us and also among us on which we are challenged to build our individual and collective moral lives.

In Matthew’s account, which we have just heard, there is no follow-up question, asking exactly who counts as my neighbor. Presumably, people took for granted the traditional understanding of neighbor as a fellow-member of one’s family, one’s clan, one’s tribe, one’s community, a fellow citizen of our society, someone I am supposed to feel connected to. 

We can, of course, expand the circle (as Exodus did) to include foreigners and immigrants. Indeed, we can keep expanding the circle wider and wider to include ever more people. That’s what happens In Luke’s telling of this story, when the lawyer - wanting, we are told, to justify himself - follows up by asking, who is my neighbor? We are all familiar with Jesus’ answer there – the parable of the Good Samaritan – which certainly suggests a significant expansion in the notion of who my neighbor is.

Still, in the world we actually live in, we naturally, inevitably, and rightly think first and foremost of those we have more concrete connections with as our neighbors. That makes sense. We do have special obligations toward certain people – parents to their children, children to their parents, relatives to other relatives, workers to coworkers, vendors to customers, political leaders to the citizens they represent and are supposed to serve, and citizens to the society that keeps us safe and enables us to flourish. Sometimes, however, as we have sadly seen over and over, people may react to real or imagined threats to themselves and their near neighbors in irrational ways which further erode the connections that create and sustain communities. 

Of course, it will always be the case that we naturally and inevitably think of as our neighbors, first and foremost, those we have more concrete connections with.  We all start with ourselves and gradually (and with some effort) learn to build bridges outward, starting with family, then moving on to others we share space with or have some common interest with, gradually growing to include all our fellow citizens and, hopefully, even beyond. That is why the commandment says to love your neighbor as yourself. Obviously, we have to start somewhere, and that somewhere starts with ourselves. 

But a fulfilling human life expands beyond oneself to include others – and more and more others. Historically, that has been our experiences as a national community, gradually expanding the circle of who counts as citizens entitled to full participation in the life of our community and whom we are supposed to care about.

Something similar was the experience of Servant of God Isaac Hecker, the founder of the Paulist Fathers, who started out focused on evangelizing his fellow Americans, primarily people like himself, and gradually grew into a more universal sense of his mission.

The good – but challenging - news that is the Gospel of Jesus keeps expanding the circle even farther.

Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Saint Paul the Apostle Church, NY, October 29, 2023.

Photo: The five Lancet Windows over the main entrance of Saint Paul the Apostle Church above the Crucifixion mural by artist William Laurel Harris.



Saturday, October 28, 2023

Anniversary Musings

Toward the end of the Mass in the traditional (pre-Paul VI) Roman rite for the ordination of priests, the ordaining bishop intoned the antiphon Jam non dico vos servos sed amicos meos  ("I no longer call you my servants but friends"), based on John 15:15. Perhaps it was that verse that contributed to how Pope Benedict XVI remembered his ordination sixty years later, when he said:

I knew: at that moment the Lord himself spoke to me quite personally. He called me his friend. He accepted me into the circle of those whom he had addressed in the supper room. Into the circle of those whom he knows in a special way.

From that he deduced this reciprocal response and duty:

The friendship that he gives me can only mean that I must also keep trying to know him better; that I seek to know him, in Scripture, in the sacraments, in the encounter in prayer, in the communion of saints, in the people who come to me and whom he sends to me.*

What a wonderful way to remember one's ordination! What a fitting aspiration and challenge to make that response real in one's day-to-day ministry! 

Photo: My Ordination as a priest, Saint Peter's Church, Toronto, Ontario, 28 years ago today (October 28, 1995).


* Sermon at Saint Peter's Basilica (June 29, 2011), quoted in Peter Seewald, Benedict XVI: A Life, Volume I, tr. Dinah Livingstone (Bloomsbury, 2020).

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

The Ubiquity and Persistence of Anti-Semitism

There is, of course, nothing new at all about anti-semitism and its life-and-death threat to the survival of the Jewish people. Just this week, in the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church's daily office readings have been from the Book of Esther, which tells the Purim story of how Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai foiled Haman's plot to exterminate the Jews. Tragically, for much of the Christian era, Christians have been among the primary practitioners of hatred of Jews. That was why the Church's repudiation of anti-semitism at the Second Vatican Council was such a landmark moment. Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone [Nostra aerate, 4].

By then, of course, modern politics had highlighted newer threats to the Jewish people and to their newly achieved nation. 

In his April 19, 1964, entry in his My Journal of the Council, Yves Congar recounted how he "learned that the Arab states have threatened to break off diplomatic relations with the Vatican (and so cause very grave inconvenience to all Catholic works) if the text on the Jews remains in the schema De oecumenismo." Congar even anticipated that it might be buried "in an extended text that will discuss either racism or other religions." To his credit, Congar, a few days later (April 25), wrote "it is quite scandalous and unacceptable that the Church, in order to please some Arab governments that obey no other reason than. just an instinct that is simplistic and all-inclusive, should have to refrain from saying what should be said on a question which comes within its province, and on which it has a duty to speak."

Indeed, it was not until 1993 - forty-five years after Israeli statehood had finally been achieved and twenty-eight years after the Church's official repudiation of anti-semitism at Vatican II - that the Holy See finally established full diplomatic relations with Israel.

I claim no professional expertise in this matter and cannot begin to unravel all the historical and psychological factors which account for the persistence of anti-semitism and have made it so ubiquitous in our world. That persistence, however, seems to be one of those perennial facts-on-the-ground that must permanently be taken into account. Yet, in the wake of Hamas's recent abhorrent genocidal acts of war against Israel, what has somehow made the already horrible even more so, has been the displays of left-wing antisemitism among the pro-Palestinian "usual suspects" on college campuses and similar settings. College campuses in particular have become notorious as places where such automatic, knee-jerk, hateful responses referencing ostensible grievances rooted in "oppression" and "colonialism" have become normalized.

It has always been one of the inherent ironies of pro-Palestinian anti-semitism that its hatred and hostility against Jews just confirms the underlying reason why the Zionist movement and the creation of the state of Israel were so necessary in the first place! It also highlights why it would be so difficult for any Israeli government to tolerate a terrorist Palestinian state on its border.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Call to Action


Thank God that President Joe Biden is old! Last night, President Biden gave an Oval Office address about the two contemporary crises in our world - the war between Israel and Hamas and the war between Ukraine and Russia. In the process, he demonstrated once again the value of years of political experience, particularly in international relations, and his own personal gift and quality of empathy. It was perhaps the best speech of his presidency. And he showed why he - rather than someone else - is in the White House. He strode the stage as a true statesman, referencing "petty factions and angry politics" while avoiding overly partisan comments on current GOP-caused chaos.

The President called this crisis moment "an inflection point," situating the current conflicts in the larger international picture and longer political timeline. In this address - as indeed in his overall response to this moment - Biden has faced a two-fold challenge. The first challenge is to support Israel and Ukraine effectively while also successfully keeping both those conflicts within manageable limits. The second challenge - perhaps an even more difficult challenge - has been to muster sufficient and widespread American support for this policy and, in particular, selling his proposed aid package to a Congress, which is increasingly dysfunctional and unreliable, a Congress where the House cannot elect a Speaker and the Senate permits an obstructionist football coach to continue holding up military appointments!

The President was at his best laying out the issues and the corresponding need for American leadership in the world - and for getting our own act together at home both in international policy terms but also in terms of anti-semitism, Islamophobia, and domestic American polarization in general.

Given the immediate crisis on the Middle East and how it has univocally dominated the news now for two weeks, it was interesting that the President devoted so much of his speech to the ongoing war in Ukraine and that the largest share of the proposed aid is for Ukraine. While probably intended to derail the possible normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the Hamas attack has also seemingly sidelined the current conflict in Ukraine, which remains a critical font-line in the longstanding conflict not just between democracy and tyranny but also between civilization and barbarism. This may well prove to be the "inflection point" that breaks through the perennial impasse in the Middle East. Crisis can create opportunity. History, however, suggests otherwise when it comes to this particularly intractable problem. Ukraine, meanwhile, remains the real "inflection point" that hopefully will really make a difference in the world.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

The Incredibly Shrinking "Two-State Solution"


The the chimera commonly called the "two-state solution" has haunted middle-eastern politics for as long as I have lived. Actually longer. The famous UN Partition Plan was adopted on November 29, 1947 - almost four months before I was born. In some alternative universe, had the Arab states been willing to accept the existence of a Jewish state, had they therefore accepted the UN Partition Plan, an Arab state would have been created on part of what was then the British League-of-Nations Palestine Mandate, along with a Jewish state (and a Jerusalem Corpus Separatum).

On February 16, 1948, however, the UN Palestine Commission reported to the Security Council that: "Powerful Arab interests, both inside and outside Palestine, are defying the resolution of the General Assembly and are engaged in a deliberate effort to alter by force the settlement envisaged therein." By May, when Britain finally withdrew from its Palestine Mandate, and Israel declared its independence, five Arab states (Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan) attacked the former Palestine Mandate territory, although Jordan limited its invasion to that part of the territory that the partition plan assigned to the Arab population, now known as Palestinians, territory Jordan would take for itself.

The 1949 Armistice agreement left Israel with a little more territory than it had originally been assigned by the partition plan, plus West Jerusalem. The rest of the Arab-assigned territory (the "West Bank", including East Jerusalem, and the "Gaza Strip") were occupied by Jordan and Egypt respectively. Presumably, those two countries could have created the independent Arab state that the UN had earlier envisioned, but they did not choose to do so. Nor does there seem to have been much international pressure for them to do so. The Jordanian occupation of the West Bank and the Egyptian occupation of Gaza continued until Israel's victory in the 1967 war, when Israel replaced Jordan and Egypt as the occupying power. 

In the aftermath of the Israeli victory and occupation, Palestinian nationalism became a sufficiently powerful force, such that Jordan and Egypt effectively relinquished their claims to the territories they had recently occupied and eventually made their own separate peace treaties with Israel. 

Meanwhile, an international consensus formed around the idea of a solution in the form of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. The 1993 Oslo Accord, which established limited Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza, represented the apogee of aspirations for such a "two state solution." The closest Israel and Palestine ever came to such a solution was probably the plan which Yasser Arafat rejected in 2000. Since then, while the "two state solution" has remained official U.S. policy, it has become increasingly unachievable in reality, and less and less of a priority for Israel's Arab neighbors, which have increasingly pursued policies without real reference to Palestinian aspirations. Indeed, the growing threat from Iran seems to have inspired Saudi Arabia and other Arab states to reconsider their inherited rejection of Israel in favor of accommodation bordering on alliance, with little to show for the Palestinians.

Yet the modern world is a world of nation-states. So, in the modern world, the normal aspiration of  a territorially definable ethno-national group is achieving its own national state. Witness the proliferation of new states in the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia after the end of the Cold War! The state of Israel itself is a testimony to the reality that only by having a state of its own can a people properly protect themselves from aggression and even the threat of extinction. It is thus only natural and normal that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza should aspire to a nation-state of their own. Unfortunately for them, their rejection of every previous opportunity to make a real peace and thus achieve something like a nation-state has had the result that the territory available for such a state has shrunken significantly from what they originally could have gotten in 1947. Meanwhile, a history of hostility has understandably made it harder and harder for Israelis to imagine a Palestinian nation-state next door which would not pose an unacceptable threat to their security, a realistic fear which has been exploited by Israel's current government to pursue a policy of increasing intransigence, paralleling Palestinian intransigence.

If there remained any doubt of the incorrigibility of such Palestinian intransigence, last Saturday's barbarous sneak attack on Israel by Hamas has undoubtedly confirmed it. (It is, of course, possible in principle to distinguish between Hamas and the ordinary Palestinian population. On the other hand, there is little evidence to suggest that that population does not support Hamas' goals, and it is worth recalling that Hamas became the government of Gaza as a result of popular election by the local Palestinian population.)

This is not the first war between Israel and Hamas terrorists. And there is no guarantee that it will be the last. There is no guarantee that Israel will be able to defeat Hamas as decisively as it obviously needs to. Nor is it clear what victory over Hamas would ultimately look like or accomplish. Would such a victory suddenly dispose the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank to seek permanent peace with Israel? Not likely. Would it end all possibility of Palestinian terrorism? Not likely. Would it bring peace and stability to the rest of the Middle East? Very unlikely. Would it cause Iran to abandon its aspirations to regional hegemony and its seemingly ineradicable hatred of Israel? Absolutely unlikely. 

But one outcome that seems so likely as to be near certain is that any "two-state" solution will be even less likely than at any time since it was first proposed in 1947.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Climate Maximalism vs. Climate Minimalism

Perhaps not in any age, but certainly not in our contemporary democratic media age (when everyone feels entitled to an opinion and has access to information and the means to express his or her opinion) should anyone be surprised by disagreements within religious communities, including disagreements between leaders and members of religious communities. 

Still, an interesting contrast can be identified between Pope Francis' pronouncements not he climate crisis and the views of many of American Catholics (and indeed other American Christians). 

As everyone who cares at all about such matters knows, in 2015 Pope Francis issued a landmark Encyclical letter, Laudatory Si', "On Care for Our Common Home," which forcefully made the case for the need to respond - now -  to the climate crisis. Last week, on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, quoted in the titles of both documents, the Pope followed up with an Apostolic Exhortation, Laudate Deum, which caused David Wallace-Wells, presumably an ally of the Pope on this issue, to describe Francis as "a climate alarmist, a techno-skeptic and a degrowther, sympathetic to activists," among other things.

Laudate Deum is well worth reading not just for its comments on climate but for its larger socio-political critique. "Not every increase in power represents progress for humanity," the Pope aptly reminds us, referencing "historical moments when our admiration at progress blinded us to the horror of its consequences." In contrast to what he calls "a healthy ecology," the Pope laments "the technocratic paradigm" that "has destroyed that healthy and harmonious relationship." And he regrets how "global crises are being squandered when they could be occasions to bring about beneficial changes." That is what he believes happened in the 2007-2008 financial crisis and then again in the Covid crisis. Regarding those squandered opportunities, he quotes his recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti: "the actual strategies developed worldwide in the wake of [those crises] fostered greater individualism, less integration and increased freedom for the truly powerful, who always fund a walk to escape unscathed."

It seems hard to quarrel with much, maybe most, of the Pope's diagnosis. In this regard, it is interesting that he begins his latest critique by invoking the analysis of the Bishops of the United States, who is 2019 "expressed very well this social meaning of our concern about climate change, which goes beyond a merely ecological approach, because 'our care for one another and our care for the earth are intimately bound together. Climate change is one of the principal challenges facing society and the global community. The effects of climate change are borne by the most vulnerable people, whether at home or around the world."

At home, however, recent studies suggest that such sentiments are not being heard or, if heard, have been largely rejected. According to a recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, only some 20% of U.S. white Catholics and 31% of Hispanic Catholics appear to agree that climate change is such a crisis. (For comparison sake, only 22% of white mainline Protestants, 19% of Black Protestants, and 16% of Hispanic Protestants agree that there is a climate crisis. American Jews lead with a mere 32%. Thus no American religious community can claim that even one-third of its members are fully on board on this issue.)

As with so much else in contemporary American religion, such views may be reflective of more encompassing political stances, which increasingly determine people's religious perspectives, rather than the other way around.

To quote Pope Francis' final words in Laudate Deum: "when human beings claim to take God's place, they become their own worst enemies."

Photo: Burned building remains after the fire in Lahaina, Hawaii.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

The Danger in Distraction


It happened almost 50 years to the day since the last war that appeared to take Israel by surprise - the 1973 Yom Kippur War. That was a conventional land and air war between Egypt and Israel. The latest provocation is a terrorist attack by Hamas. The surprise attack and the sense of unpreparedness are what most obviously tie the two wars together. Inevitably, there will be other aspects of this latest incarnation of Pearl Harbor that will also prove important in the long term.

Surely there are many factors that contributed to the catastrophe of this surprise attack, all of which will undoubtedly require analysis in due time, once Israeli victory has hopefully been achieved. But one particular aspect that surely has been noticed and which will likely receive greater attention in post-mortem punditry is the potential impact of distraction - among both Israeli elites and ordinary citizens. By that, I don't mean that border guards were asleep at their posts or intelligence officers at their desks, although there does seem to have been some unaccountable element of intelligence failure. By "distraction," I am referring to the incontrovertible fact that, for some time now, Israeli politics and Israeli society more generally have been distracted by contentious partisan divisions, alleged scandals, and overall governmental dysfunction.

What other country does that sound like?

Hamas is not likely to invade the U.S. in a sneak attack across the U.S.-Canadian border (or anywhere else). But the U.S. too - American policy and American society more generally - have been inordinately distracted by our own contentious partisan divisions, alleged scandals, and overall governmental dysfunction - all vividly on display recently on the Washington, DC, political stage and almost totally dominating our political punditry. The point is not that we are imminent danger of invasion (although terrorism, both foreign and domestic, remains a real threat), but that across a whole range of issues the national interest is being dangerously neglected while we distract ourselves with manufactured political crises.

From appropriating the money to operate the government, to aiding Ukraine, to managing immigration, to confronting climate change, almost everything that government exists in order to do is being hobbled. While the dragon of government shutdown has been tranquilized for another six weeks or so, metaphorically at least the gears of governance have been gradually grinding to a halt. Instead of the national business, the daily news - whether delivered via traditional TV, political podcasts, or social media - is distracted by the political bridge to nowhere which we keep moving farther out on.  

When Donald Trump first announced his candidacy for president in 2015, an acquaintance casually commented on how interesting, even exciting things were going to get. The curse of living in interesting times! Meanwhile, not only have our actual politics gone almost completely off the rails, but we seem to have lost any interest in the things that politics is about. We have become dangerously distracted, increasingly oblivious to the danger in distraction,

Photo: NY Times (October 8, 2023) A fire burning after a rocket attack on Saturday in Ashkelon, Israel.

Amir Cohen/Reuters
Credit..Amir Cohen/Reuters

Sunday, October 1, 2023

The Two Sons

 The familiar words we just heard from Saint Paul [Philippians 2:1-11] were written from prison to the Christian community Paul had founded at Philippi, to thank them for their generosity in the past and to encourage them in facing the future, a future that probably seemed even bit as worrisome for them as ours does for us.

Have the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus, he advised them. Paul’s idea of encouragement was to identify with the fundamental truth about Jesus, which he proceeded to express – not in his own words but with what most likely was already an existing Christian hymn, an early profession of faith in Jesus:

Who, though he was in the form of God, 

did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.

Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave … 

becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Because of this, God greatly exalted him 

and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 

that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend … 

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


In direct and conspicuous contrast to typical, ordinary, normal, human behavior, Jesus was unselfish, humble, and obedient. On this day of almost government shutdown, we are again invited to contrast the self-centered pursuit of power, domination, and control, which directs so much of human behavior and history, with Jesus, whose obedience has made it possible for us to undo that destructive pattern and alter the course of human history, by creating new kinds of relationships for us, both with God and with one another.

Jesus’ obedience to his Father was not some isolated act. It was a total attitude that characterized his whole self. In the biblical account, that was how God originally intended all of us to live. We can no longer return to that original state – or, indeed, to any past state - but, with God’s help, we have been enabled to change course – like the first son in the parable in today’s Gospel [Matthew 21:28-32], who first answered, “I will not,” but who then afterwards changed his mind.

It is certainly true that we cannot undo the past. How well we all know that! But that obvious fact can also become an excuse, a rather lame excuse, and a particularly poisonous excuse, to do nothing, becoming silent spectators in the story of life. How often have we heard someone say – or perhaps have said it ourselves – “What can I do? That’s just the way it is,” or worse “That’s just the way I am. I just can’t change!”


It’s true, of course, that we cannot undo the past, and that we are all in some sense always products of our past, both good and bad - both the things that have happened to us that we couldn’t control and all the good and bad decisions and choices we have made and the long-term consequences they have caused. But the good news of the Gospel is that, while we cannot undo that past, we can change course in the present, by remodeling ourselves in the image of God’s Son and so share in his new life – already here and now in the community of his Church on earth and then forever when our risen selves are joined with Christ completely in the kingdom of the Father.


America used to be known as the land of second chances. That may or may not be true anymore. But, in telling us this parable about the two sons, Jesus makes clear that he does not want us to focus forever on our first response, on our initial (and however often repeated) failures; but rather to do like the first son and change. Let’s get going, Jesus is telling us, into that vineyard where his own life and example are leading us!


Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Saint Paul the Apostle Church, NY, October 1, 2023.