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We’ve come to the 3rd parable addressed by Jesus to the chief priests and elders in Matthew’s Gospel. As we’ve learned from the first 2 parables over the past 2 Sundays, even though the religious leaders of Israel were Jesus’ original audience, these parables are also addressed directly to us, because we are all in need of conversion.
Today’s parable of “The Wedding Feast” has an ending unique to Matthew’s Gospel, serving as a warning to Matthew’s community of faith and to ours as well. It is the encounter between the King and the man who is at the feast without a wedding garment. Since those invited refused the invitation and this man was then invited to the feast off the street in his street clothes, we think the punishment he receives is not fair. However, this parable is not about a guy who refuses to show up at a wedding banquet in suit and tie, but symbolically about participating in the wedding feast by being clothed in Christ, the bridegroom.
Think about the words spoken by the minister to the newly baptized as they are clothed in a white garment: “You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ,” words which echo St. Paul’s injunction, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 13:14)
In other words, the Christian is to be “another Christ.” We, who have been clothed in Christ Jesus from our baptism, are to lay down our lives in loving service of others as Jesus did. To do so, we cannot come to this wedding banquet of the Eucharist and passively watch, but are to actively participate with Christ Jesus in offering our lives to the Father for the salvation of the world and the establishment of His Kingdom: a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.
We are not only invited to this feast of God’s love, but also challenged to respond to God’s love for us by living every moment as Christ with Christ.
When voting in this year’s presidential election, we are to clothe ourselves with the mind of Christ and the heart of Christ, with the very person of Christ. While doing our civic duty, we are being challenged to put our faith into practice. In this light, the Catholic bishops of the United States offer a guide to Catholic voters every presidential election year entitled: “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”
Archbishop Coakley states that “[T]his document is intended to be…an official guide for the formation of consciences…” and that “the Gospel cannot be parsed in political or partisan terms. The Gospel calls us to live by standards and our Catholic faith calls us to embrace standards that are not divisible into left or right, Republican or Democratic terminology.” (Aug. 30, 2020 issue of Sooner Catholic, page 7, paragraphs 8 & 9) As we read the bishops’ document and pray with it, we discover that there is no politician nor political party which embraces all the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Article 34 of this document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” reads: “A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter’s intent is to support that position.” That “IF” is a big “IF” as the bishops go on to say: “In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil.” Article 34 then concludes: “At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.”
What is interesting to note in Article 34 is that besides abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and gay marriage, the bishops also list as “intrinsically evil” policies “deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions” as well as policies promoting “racist behavior.” Once again, that little word “if” is super important, because a Catholic is in trouble only “if the voter’s intent is to support that position,” meaning supporting a candidate specifically for any of these intrinsically evil policies.
So, a Catholic Republican can vote for Trump, even if his policies promote racism or subject immigrants and refugees to subhuman living conditions, as long as the voter’s intent is not to support those positions. And a Catholic Democrat can vote for Biden, even if his policies promote abortions and gay marriage, as long as the voter’s intent is not to support those positions. In Catholic theology, intention – why you are doing something— is essential to understanding the morality of an action.
Paragraph 35 of “Faithful Citizenship” acknowledges the messy world of politics, where a candidate may disagree with church teaching on an important issue but a Catholic might still vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.
“There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for true grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.”
Thus, a Catholic Republican might feel impelled to vote for Trump despite his policies promoting racism or subjecting immigrants to subhuman living conditions, because of other morally grave reasons, for example, his stated opposition to abortion. A Catholic Democrat might feel impelled to vote for Biden despite his position on abortion and gay marriage because of other morally grave reasons, for example his positions on racism and immigration.
A careful reading of this document of the U.S. Bishops means those who say Catholics who vote for Biden are bad Catholics or are committing a mortal sin have no grounds for such a statement. Members of both major political parties accuse and demonize the other side, and we who clothe ourselves in Christ are called to reject such divisive behavior. Those who make such accusations are acting like the self-righteous religious leaders of Jesus’ day by condemning others without ever knowing their conscience. For we who clothe ourselves with Christ know there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female, there is neither Democrat nor Republican, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. (cf Galatians 3:28)
Which leads those of us who desire to daily “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” to consider what being “Pro-Life” truly means. To be “Pro-Life” means to respect life at all stages, to honor the dignity of every human life from conception to a natural death. This is a seamless garment of life proposed by Church teaching, this teaching which is for life for all people at all times.
For example, the Church’s teaching on the evil of racism touches on many other issues of justice which impact the life of a person of color. The Church pledges to walk with a mother of color throughout her pregnancy, to provide her with the support necessary to choose life for her child. But the Church does not stop there.
Recognizing that the structures of racism have imprisoned many people of color in poverty, the Church works to change these structures. At the same time, the Church promotes policies for affordable childcare and transportation, so that this mother can work, and calls for her to be paid a living wage, so she can provide for her child and herself.
Acknowledging that those who are poor, especially people of color, tend to live where pollution is the worst and are impacted more severely by natural disasters, the Church also works to address the climate crisis in the Spirit of St. Francis and guided by the teachings of Pope Francis.
Because the death penalty disproportionately kills people of color, and because the killing of any life by the State is contrary to the commandment, “Thou shall not kill”, the Church also speaks out against the death penalty.
To be “Pro-Life” means much more than protecting the innocent child in the womb. It also means addressing all the issues that unjustly impact that child’s life once born.
The invitation to the wedding feast of the Eucharist, this invitation to share in the life and love of the Son of God, requires an ongoing conversion of life. In order to truly become what we receive, the Body of Christ, we are challenged to more fully conform our thoughts with the mind of Christ, to more fully align our actions with the heart of Christ. To protect and respect all life so that anyone who meets us will think they have met Jesus himself.
Las directrices para su implementación en el otoño del 2021 y del 2022, estarán disponibles a más tardar el 1 de mayo. No se harán cambios a las clases de Confirmación en la Iglesia Católica Holy Spirit para el año escolar 2020-2021.
OKLAHOMA CITY – El Arzobispo Paul Coakley anunció este martes que ha decidido cambiar la edad para recibir el sacramento de la Confirmación en la Arquidiócesis de Oklahoma City. La preparación para el sacramento se hará en un año, en lugar de dos, y se llevará a cabo durante el sexto o séptimo grado escolar, en lugar de hacerlo durante la preparatoria (high school), como hasta ahora.
El Secretariado para la Evangelización y la Catequesis asistirá a las parroquias en la implementación de este cambio, el cual será efectivo a partir del otoño del 2022. No habrá ningún cambio en este año.
La decisión de mover la edad de la Confirmación a una edad más joven se da después de meses de oración y diálogos con sacerdotes, personal parroquial y padres de familia, y busca promover una mejora en la pastoral juvenil y servir mejor a las familias.
“Todos debemos reflexionar profundamente sobre nuestra Iglesia y las necesidades de la juventud, particularmente a la luz de la cultura moderna y de todos los retos puntuales que enfrentamos hoy. Necesitamos equipar a nuestros jóvenes con las gracias a su alcance. Desafortunadamente hay muchos jóvenes en preparatoria que han sido bautizados y recibieron la Primera Comunión, pero que nunca fueron confirmados, dejándolos sin el don de la fortaleza que nos brinda el sacramento de la Confirmación”, dijo el Arzobispo Coakley.
“Comúnmente se ve la Confirmación como una opción para convertirnos en adultos en la Iglesia. Como sacramento que es, Dios nos ofrece la confirmación con un don gratuito que consiste más en Dios confirmándonos como sus hijos, que nosotros confirmando nuestra fe en Dios. De ahora en adelante, concentrémonos en apoyar a nuestras familias y a los padres de familia, y en implementar iniciativas profundas e intencionales de formación y pastoral juvenil. Agradezco a todos los que han estado involucrados en este desafío y a todos aquellos que estarán involucrados en la implementación de las directrices en los próximos meses”.
En el verano del 2019, el Arzobispo Coakley creó un grupo de trabajo para revisar las directrices de preparación sacramental y hacer recomendaciones sobre la edad a la que debería administrarse el sacramento de la Confirmación. El grupo de trabajo estaba formado por directores de educación
religiosa, directores de escuela, sacerdotes, ministros de pastoral juvenil, diáconos, padres de familia y personal arquidiocesano.
El Consejo Presbiteral también revisó las directrices y a todos los sacerdotes se les dio la oportunidad de ofrecer sus puntos de vista sobre los distintos aspectos de la Confirmación, y cómo debería implementarse en las parroquias.
El Secretariado de Evangelización y Catequesis trabajará en lo que resta del año en desarrollar opciones y directrices, tomando en cuenta las necesidades particulares de nuestras parroquias. Las opciones y directrices serán enviadas a los párrocos a más tardar el 1 de mayo, para que puedan ser implementadas en el otoño del 2021 o del 2022. El proceso de transición incluirá iniciativas para mejorar la pastoral juvenil en edad de la escuela secundaria y la preparatoria, así como opciones para la administración del sacramento de la Confirmación a los jóvenes cuya edad se encuentre en la brecha entre la edad anterior y la nueva.
Toda la información sobre la Confirmación y las nuevas directrices arquidiocesanas se encontrarán disponibles en archokc.org/confirmation tan pronto como estén listas para su implementación.
Guidelines for Fall 2021 and Fall 2022 coming May 1. No changes will be made to classes at Holy Spirit Catholic Church for the 2020-2021 school year.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Archbishop Paul Coakley announced a change in placement for the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. Preparation for Confirmation will be completed in one year instead of two and will be held in the sixth or seventh grade instead of during high school.
The Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis will assist parishes in preparing for and implementing the transition, which will begin by Fall of 2022. No changes will be made this year.
The decision to move Confirmation to a younger age comes after months of prayer and input from clergy, parish staff and parents with the goal of boosting involvement in youth ministry and better serving families.
“We all need to think deeply about our Church and about the needs of our young people, particularly in light of our modern culture and all of the unique challenges they are facing today. We need to equip our children with all of the grace available. Unfortunately, there are a number of youth in high school who have been baptized and received First Communion but never were confirmed, leaving thousands without the gift of Confirmation to strengthen them,” Archbishop Coakley said.
“It has become common to view Confirmation as a choice to become an adult in the Church. As a sacrament, God offers Confirmation as a free gift that is actually more about God confirming ‘us’ as his children, not us confirming our faith in God. As we move forward, let us focus on supporting our families and parents, and on being thoughtful and intentional in our formation and youth ministry efforts. Thank you to everyone who has collaborated on this challenge and to everyone who will be working to implement the new guidelines in the future.”
In the summer of 2019, Archbishop Coakley created the Sacramental Preparation Revision Task Force to review sacramental guidelines and consider potential changes for the placement of Confirmation. The task force included directors of religious education, principals, priests, youth ministers, deacons, parents and archdiocesan staff.
The Priests Council also reviewed guidelines, and all priests were given the opportunity to provide feedback on various aspects of Confirmation and how it should be implemented in parishes.
The Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis will dedicate the remainder of this year to developing options and guidelines, mindful of parishes’ unique needs. The options and guidelines will be sent to pastors no later than May 1 for a Fall 2021 or Fall 2022 start. The transition will include bolstering youth ministries for middle school and high school and planning Confirmations for youth in the “gap years.”
Information about Confirmation and the new archdiocesan guidelines will be posted online at archokc.org/confirmation as they become available.
“Hear another parable,” Jesus says to the religious leaders. Having already tried to break into their locked hearts like a thief in the night with his “Parable of the 2 Sons”, Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel tries yet again to find a way in. With his “Parable of the Tenants”, Jesus hurls yet another fiery dart of love at their frozen, self-righteous hearts.
By his piercing words of persuasion, Jesus invites sinners to change their minds, to see their sin, to turn back to Him. He is powerfully persistent in his desire for their conversion. In this parable, he holds up a mirror to these religious leaders, so they might see themselves clearly and humbly admit their need for God’s mercy.
Jesus glimpses his destiny in their hard-hearted, arrogant opposition, that these leaders who have been given stewardship of the vineyard of Israel will soon throw him outside the vineyard and kill him on the hill of Golgotha. Yet, Jesus shows he is more concerned with saving them from eternal death than he is of dying a terrible death. The Beloved Son of God, the landowner’s son, is going to “have his vengeance” on these greedy religious leaders by overwhelming them with His mercy, all the way to the cross.
But lest we be tempted like we were last Sunday to think Jesus is only challenging the self-serving religious leaders of his day, we are invited to think again and to think differently. This parable invites us to conversion, to examine our conscience, to see ourselves being called to a change of heart leading to a change of life. These words of the Gospel are not lifeless words etched on a page from history, but the living word of God, and the Living Word made Flesh addresses them to us here and now.
For the seeds of greed planted in the hearts of those religious leaders who conspired to kill the Son of the Landowner, the Son of God, also seek to take root in our souls. It is a particular kind of greedy seed—a greed having to do with religious “attitudes” which we hold tight and which slowly kill the spirit. Thus, when we examine our conscience, are we conscious of a certain pious smugness? Are we aware of a type of self-congratulation derived from doing our religious duty, of an attitude of being better than “them” – whoever it is we look down our nose at?
Do we do so-called charitable acts as a performance for others to see, to bolster our self-image as good Christians rather than solely for the benefit of the recipients of our charitable actions? Is there a gnawing awareness that despite professing a God-centered faith that instead “I” continue to be very much at the center of “my” life, that everything revolves around me and my desires, instead of my life revolving around God?
Like the religious leaders listening to Jesus in the temple, have we restricted our relationship to God to only one small corner of our life, our time in this temple? So that the Lord Jesus is not the Lord of my marriage, but I am. So that the Lord Jesus is not the Lord of my work, but I am. So that the Lord Jesus is not the Lord of my politics, but I am. So that everything I do outside of this temple has nothing to do with Him or producing the fruits of His kingdom, which are justice, peace, and love.
The Risen Jesus by the power of His Spirit keeps offering to be with us and act through us in every situation and in every relationship. The call to conversion comes to each of us in every part of our life where we have become greedy. So that in our greed to always be right, we might be more generous in admitting our wrongs. So that in our greed to win every argument, whether in person or on social media, we might instead open our heart to listen to the other side. So that when greed causes us to think that my life and my stuff are mine, we might instead open our ears to the cry of the poor and the doors of our borders to those fleeing horrific violence.
Recognizing our sin, seeing how we are constantly putting our self at the center, is only the first step of conversion. The next step is to invite the Risen Lord to be the cornerstone of our life, to be the One on whom we build everything in our life. For without Him, we can do nothing of lasting value, all our efforts are in vain.
What is interesting about this parable is that the events which unfold in its telling only happen because the owner (God) went away on a journey. This “Parable of the Tenants” packs a powerful punch because the landowner is absent from the scene.
Because when people look for God in a visible form, they will see only each other. When they look for Christ, they will see only Christians. This is the reason the Risen Christ has entrusted us with His Spirit so that everything that is His may be ours. Or better yet, by his death and resurrection and the Spirit given to us, the Risen Lord has implanted in us a wholly new life, with all the same energies and principles of life that give thrust to his own life: his joy and unity with the Father, their mutual knowledge and love, the very glory of the Holy Trinity. Wow! That’s amazing, isn’t it!!
We produce the fruits of his dynamic presence by making him visible to others through our thoughts, words, and deeds! Or as St. Paul so poetically states, by choosing to think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and gracious.
The invitation is not to be “like” Jesus but to allow Him to live in us. The question we are to ask in every situation is not “What would Jesus do?” but “What will I do enlivened by the Spirit of Jesus?” The point of Holy Communion is we invite Him to live in us, to work through us. Jesus does not want his followers each reflecting a little piece of him in their lives. No, what he wants is to have his one life expressed fully in each of his followers! Christ shining in a 1000 Billion Faces reflecting him in their own God-given uniqueness!!
Thomas Merton once wrote: “A witness of a crime, who just stands by and makes a mental note of the fact that he is an innocent bystander, tends by that very fact to become an accomplice.” In the vineyard of the world today, we witness gruesome and unimaginable horrors, we see widespread and unnecessary waste, we hear silent or eerily audible screams of the vulnerable – do we make mental note of these crimes, OR are we stirred to action in some concrete way? The God of love and compassion desires a response from us. Do our lives produce the fruit of God’s justice and mercy?