08 October 201727 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
27 Ordinary Time
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time -
Matthew 21:33-43

Aesop tells of a dog with a bone. He crosses a bridge over a stream. He looks at his reflection. He decides it is a second dog with a bigger bone. He goes for the bone. His own falls to the stream's bottom. Now he has no bone. The tenants of today's parable are similar. Because of greed, they lost their jobs. Some concede Jesus was the greatest man who ever lived. Beyond that they cannot go. However, we must make our choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. (CS Lewis) The proof of a superior story does not consist in its original telling but rather in how often it's retold. On this count, today's Parable of the Tenants qualifies as world-class. It has been retold countless times for 2,000 years. The parable was spoken on Tuesday or Wednesday of Holy Week. It is a parable of defiance. (Wiliiam Barclay) Christ knows He is about to be assassinated. But He calls the bluff of His murderers. He has no intention of running scared. He is ready for His gunfight at the OK Corral. In disecting a parable, it is usually a given that it has only one meaning and that modifying clauses are not to be emphasized. But this parable is not in that class. Here each item has a point. Furthermore, no point went over the heads of His audience that day. Nor were the hearers amused. Neither should we be. Jesus describes a situation not rare in Israel.

The nation was as politically and economically troubled as it is today. Wealthy absentee landlords were common. Labor problems abounded. Some tenant-farmers working for low wages declined to pay rents. Rent strikes are not a 21st century invention. Thus, when the landlord sent his agents and even his son to pick up his rents, the hapless fellows were often abused and even murdered. Christ's audience had read of such incidents in the Jerusalem Times over coffee and bagels. They nodded their heads in understanding. The vineyard was a stand-in for Israel's people. The owner is God. The farmers are the rulers and priests who run the country.

The servants are the prophets down through the centuries. Their murders make up an unbroken obituary column throughout the Scriptures. The son is Jesus the Christ. The tale tells of God's confidence in people. He loans His land to us. He does not stand over us like a bullying cop nor even a watchful one. He is patient with us too. He sends us not one messenger but many. Even, when we ignore them, He, unlike ourselves, will suffer insults for a long time. A novel's hero says it is not the peace of God that surpasses understanding but rather the pain He is willing to endure from our sins. But God is not to be trifled with. He is equal parts tremendous lover and exacting judge. The story does warn of a time when God will call in all the chips owed to Him. If we don't make up, the land will be given to others. We will be losers with our noses pressed on the glass looking in at the party. The Parable of the Tenants tells us what Jesus thought about Himself. The agents who preceded Him were the prophets. Yet, exalted as they were, they were but errand boys.

For there is only one Son. He is the Christ. Do you see now it is not enough to say the Nazarene was a great man? One must choose whether He is divine or a madman or something worse. This parable contains one of the clearest claims Jesus ever made to being an original. He considers Himself miles above the greatest prophet. He is without peer. Language betrays us when we try to speak correctly of Him. Matthew's Gospel tells us of the sacrifice of Jesus. Even though He knew the outcome, He went to His rendezvous with death with both eyes at full attention. He was not a passive participant in His own destruction. He was not a Billy Budd. Herman Melville, Budd's creator, would laugh at such a comparison. Gary Cooper's role in High Noon fits Him better. Jesus the Christ is what He was yesterday and will be tomorrow: none other than the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. The world says to us, "Follow me and fit in." Jesus says, "Follow me and stand out." (Max Lucado) Make your choice. Jesus does not want us to go where the path may lead. He wants us to go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
27 Ordinary Time
27th Sunday of Ordinary Time:

Wicked Laborers, St. Francis & Us What were they thinking? How did the tenant farmers ever get it into their minds that they had the right to keep the grapes and vineyards that they did not own? How could they justify killing the owner's servants and then his son? To understand this Sunday's parable, we need to consider the situation back in the time of Our Lord. Very often farms and vineyards were owned by foreigners or by wealthy Israelites who lived a great distance away, usually in foreign countries. By taking over the farm or vineyard for themselves, the workmen would actually be part of a rebellion against foreign powers or against Jewish people who had given themselves over to foreign powers. In addition to this a Jewish law read that if a landowner died without an heir, his property would become the possession of whoever grabbed it first, in the case of the parable, the workmen. Basing himself on Isaiah 5, our first reading, Jesus tells the people that the vineyard is the people of Israel.

The vineyard in Isaiah 5 is cut down because the people of Israel have not been faithful to their God. The vineyard in the parable from the Gospel of Matthew is a source of turmoil because the workmen have been keeping the fruit for themselves. The workmen here are the elders and leaders of the Jewish people. They were more concerned with themselves than with the work of God's kingdom. Jesus came at a very inopportune time for the Jewish leaders. Politically, these leaders were winning concessions from Rome that would keep them in power. Financially, the leaders of the people were afraid that they would be thrown into poverty if they lost their position. To the leaders of the Jewish people, this was not a good time for a Messiah. But the world was waiting. God was ready. The timing was really perfect.

The extent of the Roman Empire, the way that Rome interlocked culture, economics and military conquest, made the timing perfect to spread the Gospel. Eight hundred years ago a man was born who embraced the attitude of bearing fruit for God so completely that he reformed the entire Church. His influence is still felt. This man, whose feast we celebrated last Wednesday is St. Francis of Assisi, perhaps the most popular saint this side of the Apostolic Era. Francis recognized early in his life that concern about power, position and finances could lead a person to act like the wicked vine dressers. At the time of his radical conversion to Christ, Francis was about to inherit his father's position and power. His friends told him that the time was not right for him to turn so completely to God.

He should wait until he was well established, then he could be generous to charity. But Francis heard a call for immediate action. He could see himself embracing a life of sin if he didn't listen to this call. He decided to concentrate all his energy on bearing fruit for God. So before the civil authorities and in the presence of his father, he renounced all his possessions and embraced a life of bearing fruit for God. In his poverty Francis became the richest man in the world, calling the sun his brother and the moon his sister. In many ways, St. Francis of Assisi was a Christian romantic, excited by the true meaning of following Christ. It was clear to Francis that timing was everything, providing the timing was the Lord's time, not his. This has to be clear to us also. The call to follow the Lord comes when God chooses, not when we choose. Vintage time is upon us. The owner of the vineyard is looking for the results of our labor. Are we to beat him off and go on with our lives as though we own the vineyard? Or can we have the courage to put the Lord and his Kingdom first in our lives and in our world? We come to Church seeking the courage to be the Lord's laborers in his vineyard.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
27 Ordinary Time
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
(October 8, 2017)

Bottom line: St. Paul tells us how to stop worrying and start living. Today St. Paul tells us, "Have no anxiety at all.” (Phil 4:6) We perhaps smile at those words. When someone says not to worry, it can sound like Pollyanna – a person so blindly optimistic that they imagine bad things can never happen. Well, that is hardly the case with Paul. He faced trials few of us could conceive. A partial list includes an escape involving being lowered over the side of building in a basket, public whippings, shipwrecks, snake bites, imprisonment and bodily ailments – particularly, afflictions of the eye.

Yet in this letter, written toward the end of his life, he says, "Have no anxiety at all.” In his admonition to cast aside worry, St. Paul was echoing Jesus. At the Last Supper, knowing full well that the next morning he would face public humiliation and unspeakable tortures, Jesus told his disciples, "Do not let your hearts be troubled.” We can ask how it is possible to obey such a command. And let's be clear. Paul and Jesus are not making a pious suggestion; they are giving a command. Have no anxiety at all. Do not let your hearts be troubled. All of us would like to be free from worries, but it seems impossible.

We have financial problems, family difficulties, work deadlines, health concerns – not to mention worries about what is happening in our world: natural disasters, societal breakdown, wars, economic turmoil and so on. When Paul says to have no anxieties, when Jesus tells us not to be troubled, it does not mean to ignore reality. What it means is that we take a different approach to our troubles. Before I say what I think that approach is, I want to make a disclaimer. I am a terrible worrier. I worry about money. I worry about what people think about me. I worry about not doing my job properly.

I hear other people problems and I worry about them! It bothers me that I can do so little to help. I'm a worrier. At the same time, I recognize that all my fretting does no good for me or anyone else. When I analyze my anxieties, I see that they concern only two days. And I have no control over either of them. The two days are yesterday and tomorrow. I brood about past faults and blunders, yet I can do nothing to change them. The best I can do is to learn from them, to repent of those things which were sinful and to make restitution if possible. The same is true about tomorrow – the things which I worry about often do not come to pass or, when they do happen, they turn out completely different than what I feared. The only day I can control is today. Jesus said, "Do not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Mt 6:34) That does not mean that we do not make prudent plans. Careful preparation is part of today's duty.

But once we make those plans, put them in Jesus' hands. I once knew a lovely religious sister who lived this teaching. For example, when she wrote a letter, perhaps making a request, she would say a prayer over the letter before she posted it. Then she would not think about it until the person responded. She was one of the most effective parish workers I ever knew. If we could somehow put our anxieties in God's hand, it would greatly increase our effectiveness. An American businessman illustrates this principle. He had set up a retail store, but problems with his workers, debt and lack of customers were causing him terrible anxiety.

He developed a case of shingles which, as some of you know personally, is a very painful condition. One night he felt that he would die before morning and he began writing farewells to his wife, his son and his friends. He didn't sleep a wink. As the sun rose, he heard singing from a hospital chapel, next to his house. The words of the hymn were, "No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you…” He lifted himself up in his bed and said to himself: "It is real! God loves and cares for me.” He felt like he had been let out of dungeon into the sunlight. He went on to found one of the most successful retail businesses in our country. You have probably heard of him. His had a somewhat funny name: James Cash Penney, but he was better known as J.C. Penney. No matter what the test, God will take care of you. Those are good words. Now is the moment to say a prayer of abandonment. What a difference it would make if we could place our cares in God's hand! Well, listen carefully. St. Paul tells us how to stop worrying and start living: Brothers and sisters, Have no anxieties at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
27 Ordinary Time
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time,
Classic Matthew 21: 33-43

Gospel Summary
The parable of the wicked tenants also appears with some variations in Mk 12: 1-12 and Lk 20: 9-18. In Matthew's gospel it is the second in a trilogy of judgment parables, preceded by the parable of the Two Sons and followed by the parable of the Marriage Feast. Jesus addresses the parable to the chief priests and elders of the people. Using the vineyard image of Isaiah 5:1-7, he tells the story of a landowner who leases his vineyard to tenants, and goes on a journey. At harvest time, when he sends servants to obtain his produce, the tenants maltreat and even kill his servants. The landowner finally sends his son.

The evil tenants kill the son, hoping thereby to acquire his inheritance. After finishing the story, Jesus asks his hearers what they think the owner of the vineyard will do. They answer that the evil tenants will be put to death, and the vineyard will be leased to other tenants who will give him the produce at harvest time. Jesus then turns their own judgment against themselves: in the same way, the kingdom of God will be taken from them and given to a people who will produce good fruit. Life Implications As Brevard S. Childs points out in his book Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments, the key to recognizing the life implications of the parable lies in its link to the Old Testament. It is a "juridical parable” in which a prophet tells a story with the intention of drawing its hearers into bringing their judgment back upon themselves. The classic example is the story Nathan told King David about the rich man who took a poor man's only ewe lamb to make a meal for a visitor.

Nathan, like Jesus, waits for the hearer of the parable to make a judgment. David, of course, declares that the man who did the evil deed merits death. The prophet Nathan, alluding to David's sinful taking of Uriah's wife, says to the king: "You are the man” (2 Sam 12: 1-12). This Sunday's homily will work if we are drawn into the extended meaning of the parable which Matthew develops. The tenants entrusted with God's vineyard, no longer in parable, but in reality, have killed many of his prophets and finally have killed his son, Jesus.

What judgment will God make against these tenants? Our common sense readily makes the judgment that divine justice demands punishment for these evil deeds. The crucial point of the homily is that Jesus, the now-vindicated Risen Lord, addresses each of us as tenants of God's vineyard today. He turns our judgment upon those who rejected him and the prophets before him back upon ourselves. Have we in fact produced the good fruit of justice and love? Do we at times forget that we are only tenants, and imagining ourselves as owners, we do as we please? Do we amass more of its fruit than we could possibly use while others die of starvation? Do we also act with violence against our fellow human beings, sons and daughters of God? The prayer of our liturgy today is that we will receive the grace to open our hearts to the prophetic voice of Jesus and become a people who produce abundant good fruit in accord with God's will. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

27th Sunday of the Year, Modern
Lectionary 139

As produce flows in from backyard gardens, bundles of zucchini are surreptitiously left on neighbors porches, and harvest time approaches for our local farmers, it is appropriate that the scripture readings at mass speak of reaping the good fruits of the land. In particular, the prophecy from Isaiah, the responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel all use the image of a promising vineyard to express their meaning. In a sense, going beyond the agricultural imagery, the theme of these readings is that of choosing. In Isaiah’s famous "song of the vineyard" the prophet describes how the Lord, having chosen his land, carefully cleared it, tilled it, and planted it with only the finest vines, yet it yielded nothing but bitter wild grapes.

The prophet then makes it clear that the vineyard represents the Lord’s chosen people Israel, and that the he will punish this vineyard by uprooting it: "The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant; he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!" (Isa 5:7). The theme of choosing continues in the responsorial Psalm, where the inspired writer recalls the exodus of the chosen Israelites from Egypt and their entry into the promised land: "A vine from Egypt you transplanted; you drove away the nations and planted it" (Ps 80:9).

There too the rebellion of Israel is noted, as well as a plea for restoration: "Give us new life, and we will call upon your name. O Lord, God of hosts, restore us" (Ps 80:19-20).

When it comes to the Gospel parable of the vineyard the chief priests and the elders could hardly have doubted that Jesus was referring Isaiah’s words to them, for his words follow closely upon the "song of the vineyard," which they would likely have known by heart. Again we hear how a landowner selected a plot, carefully prepared and planted it, and then leased it out to tenants whom he expected to look after his vineyard and help it bear a good harvest. Being badly scorned by them and seeing his servants beaten and killed he then sends his beloved son, who is likewise killed—an unmistakable reference to Christ himself and to his violent death.

The parable concludes with the warning that the landowner will come back and "put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times." Here we see an allusion to the general lack of reception that Jesus found from his own people. As the Declaration Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican council states: "As Holy Scripture testifies, Jerusalem did not recognize the time of her visitation, nor did the Jews in large number accept the Gospel; indeed not a few opposed its spreading."

We rejoice that we Christians are the living fulfillment of the prophecy "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone" (Matt 21:42). What we must remember is that, firstly, the same possibility of jeopardy faces us if the vineyard of the Lord does not bear fruit on our watch, and secondly, the original choice of the Lord is never defeated, it simply yields new harvests of growth and blessings even if it takes unexpected turns through history. In this regard Nostra Aetate continues: "Nevertheless, God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues…the Church awaits that day, known to God alone, on which all peoples will address the Lord in a single voice and 'serve him shoulder to shoulder.'" Now that is a choice and a harvest of salvation for which we can all be glad! Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
27 Ordinary Time
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

The parable we are presented with today is the third in a line of three parables to be found in Matthew's Gospel which concern themselves with vineyards. It is no mistake that Jesus often uses the vineyard as a symbol of the Kingdom of God. There certainly are many parallels between a vineyard and the Kingdom. Maintaining a vineyard is hard work and it takes equally hard work to enter the Kingdom of God, but the hard work of planting, pruning and harvesting the vines and then pressing the grapes eventually leads to the production of wonderful wine which brings joy to the heart. We can see how his is a very appropriate parallel for the hard work which ultimately leads to the unsurpassable joy of entering the Kingdom of Heaven. The parable for today is the most direct of the three parables about vineyards.

It comes closest to describing the actual situation of Jesus who is represented by the son of the owner of the vineyard. The tenants are clearly understood to be the Chief Priests and Elders who have usurped the rights of the owner. And the prophets are the servants who are beaten up and kicked out by the tenants. Jesus warns the priests and elders that the vineyard is about to be taken from them but they ignore his words and carry on with their distorted beliefs and twisted actions, which eventually end up with them putting to death the Son of God. But as Jesus warns them, the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. Jesus whom they dismissed as someone of no consequence turns out to be the very stone upon which God chooses to build his Church.

He is the one who wins salvation for the whole people. It is the elders and priests who end up being cast aside. Their big mistake is their failure to realise that the Kingdom of God was never going to be inaugurated with fanfare and trumpet and a great entrance procession with them being given pride of place. Just a few days beforehand they had failed to notice the humble entry by Jesus into his Holy City on the back of a donkey with a few impoverished supporters waving palms. The entrance of the Messiah into his Holy City went by without them even noticing it; how ironic is that? The elders and the priests were supposed to be responsible for preparing the people for the coming of the Messiah but instead they brand him as a troublemaker and have him arrested, tried and executed in the name of expediency. They have completely missed the point and have focussed on their own aggrandisement rather than on their heavy spiritual responsibilities. Jesus piles on the pressure when he asks them if they have read the scriptures. He certainly demonstrates quite a lot of cheek asking the Chief Priests and Elders if they have read the scriptures.

That was their job, and their sole purpose in life, to read and interpret the scriptures for the people. They must have been furious with Jesus, regarding him as an upstart who is telling them how to do their own job. The greatest twist in this whole episode is that Jesus manages to get the Chief Priests to issue the verdict on themselves. He asks them what should the owner of the vineyard do with these traitorous tenants. They give the answer, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.' There is no more to be said, since the Chief Priests have just pronounced the verdict on themselves. There is an exquisite irony in this and it is not lost on Jesus. It is actually a pity that the Gospel text today finishes so soon; if you move on a verse or two Matthew tells us, “When the Chief Priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them.

They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.” That is the final upshot. Jesus has so irritated them and shown them in such a bad light that instead of reforming themselves they decide to kill him. These powerful parables show the Chief Priests, the religious elite and the other senior citizens in a very bad light. And the fact that they feel that their hypocrisy has been revealed by Jesus to the world makes them determined to do away with him. Of course, as always, there is a lesson here for us too. We have to be aware of the role we are playing in the world in which we live. We are in an analogous position to those priests. We have been entrusted by Christ with the duty to proclaim his Gospel of love to the world.

This is a sacred responsibility, it is a great privilege; but we know that it is not easy and it is often tempting to neglect our responsibility in this regard. However, we do not want to find ourselves castigated because of our failure to lead others to salvation. We were invited by God to be his representatives in the world and we accepted this responsibility. It is now up to us how well we carry out this important task. And it is a task that really involves each one of us; it is not something we can leave to the priest or the parish councillors, it involves us all. It is our duty to hand on the faith first and foremost to our children.

We need to do this principally by showing a good example. If our children do not see us praying then there is little chance that they will pray. If our children overhear us telling a big lie, will they not immediately follow suit? If they observe us gossiping about our neighbours or committing any one of numerous other faults then we will not be surprised when they fall away from their faith. We are principally the evangelists of our children. And those of us with no children or those whose children have grown up need to support those who presently have children and we ought to do whatever we can, even if only indirectly, to help them carry out their role. And prayer for them is surely an important part of this. The parables of Christ last forever and there is a challenge in them for those living in every age. They judge us whether we are Chief Priests or ordinary parishioners. We need to be on the alert in case they find us wanting.
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