OT XXVII [A] (Oct 8) Sunday (Eight-minute homily in one page) L/23
OT XXVII [A] (Oct 8) Sunday (Eight-minute homily in one page) L/23
Introduction: The common theme of today’s readings is the necessity of bearing fruit in the Christian life. The readings warn us of the punishment for spiritual sterility, ingratitude, and wickedness.
Scripture lessons summarized: In today’s first reading, called, Isaiah's Song of the Vineyard, the prophet describes God's care of, and expectations for, His Chosen People. God’s Chosen People failed to bear fruit, in spite of the blessings lavished upon them by a loving and forgiving God. Further, they were poor tenants in the Lord's vineyard. Hence, God laments: "I expected My vineyard to yield good grapes. Why did it yield sour ones instead?"
In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 80), the Psalmist pleads with God to look down from Heaven and to "take care of this vine," knowing that if any good is to come of the vine, it will be the doing of God, not the people.
In the second reading, Paul tells Philippians about the high expectations he has for them, reminding them that they need to become fruit-producing Christians by praying and giving thanks to God and by practicing justice, purity, and graciousness in their lives.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells an allegorical parable in which the landowner is God, the vineyard is Israel as God’s special people, and the tenants are the political and religious leaders of Israel. The story emphasizes the failure of the tenants, the Chosen People of God and their leaders, to produce fruits of righteousness, justice, and mercy. Giving a theological explanation of Israel’s history of gross ingratitude through the parable, Jesus reminds us Christians that, since we are the "new" Israel, enriched with additional blessings and provisions in the Church, we are expected to show our gratitude to God by bearing fruits of the kingdom, fruits of the Holy Spirit, in our lives, giving Him all the Glory.
Life messages: 1) Are we good fruit-producers in the vineyard of the Church? Jesus has given the Church everything necessary to make Christians fruit-bearing. a) The Bible to know the will of God. b) The Sacrament of Holy Orders to consecrate bishops, priests, and deacons to lead the people in God’s ways. c) The Sacrament of Reconciliation for the remission of sins. d) The Holy Eucharist as our spiritual food. e) The Sacrament of Confirmation for a dynamic life of Faith. f) The Sacrament of Matrimony for the sharing of love in families, the fundamental unit of the Church. g) The Sacrament of (Last) Anointing to restore and strengthen spiritual life and bring mental emotional and physical healing as well, if that is what God wills. h) Role models in thousands of saints. We are expected make use of these gifts to produce fruits for God.
2) Are we fruit-producers in the vineyard of the family? By the mutual sharing of blessings, by sacrificing time and talents for the members of the family, by humbly and lovingly serving others in the family, by recognizing and encouraging each other and by honoring and gracefully obeying our parents, we become producers of "good fruit" for the Vine, Christ, in our families, and so give Glory to God.
OT XXVII [A] SUNDAY (Oct 4) Is 5:1-7; Phil 4:6-9; Mt 21:33-43
Homily starter anecdotes: 1) Warnings ignored: Recently the New York Times Magazine showed a series of photographs of a rock formation in Yosemite National Park near Bridal Veil Falls. A prominent sign in yellow plastic was attached to the rocks which clearly said: "DANGER! Climbing or scrambling on rocks and cliffs is extremely dangerous. They are slippery when dry or wet. Many injuries and even fatalities have occurred." One picture showed a woman walking on the rocks in a tight dress and high heels. Another showed a couple walking on the rocks. The man was carrying his dog apparently because he thought it was too slippery for the dog. Another showed a man carrying a month-old baby in his arms while walking on the rocks. ("Slippery Slope in Yosemite" New York Times Magazine, September 9, 1994, p. 14.) -- What causes us to ignore clear warnings? Why do folks rip the plastic cover off a pack of cigarettes, when all of us know the Surgeon General's warning by heart? Why do people remove the safety shield from power saws? Why do people ignore their doctor's warnings about being overweight and under-exercised? Why do entire civilizations ignore warnings about pollution, or the revolutionary pressures that economic and political injustice creates? Today’s Gospel tells us how the Jewish religious leadership ignored the even the final warning given by Jesus after Palm Sunday. (https://youtu.be/kAvhslwxMPU) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) Wild vines in the Lord’s vineyard. In his book From Scandal to Hope, Fr. Benedict Groeschel (EWTN), examines the roots of the clergy sex-abuse scandal. He details how disloyalty spread through seminaries, universities, chanceries, and parishes. The most notorious case was that of Fr. Paul Shanley who helped found the North American Man-Boy Love Association in 1979. He lectured in seminaries, once with a bishop in attendance, maintaining that “homosexuality is a gift of God and should be celebrated,” and that there was no sexual activity that could cause psychic damage-- “not even incest or bestiality.” No wonder Fr. Charles Curran had little trouble getting seventy-seven theologians to sign a protest against Humanae Vitae, an encyclical which reaffirmed marital chastity! A few years later the Catholic Theological Society (CTS), published Human Sexuality: New Directions in American Catholic Thought, a study which accepted cohabitation, adultery and homosexuality. Now, however, all these chickens have come home to roost. We are paying the price – in lawsuits, public humiliation, and loss of credibility. The media gave us a glimpse of the enormous destruction in the Lord’s vineyard done by those wicked tenants. They did so with great relish because the scandals discredit a teaching authority they, by and large, find annoying. But this attention by the media has had consequences the media probably did not intend. It has alerted Catholics to the widespread pillaging of the vineyard, which ultimately means the damnation of souls. -- Fr. Groeschel asks, “Does all this scandal shake your faith in the Church?” He answers, “I hope so, because ultimately your Faith should not be in the Church. Ultimately your Faith is in Jesus Christ. It is because of him that we accept and support the Church. We believe in and belong to the Church because Christ established it on his apostles." We see in today’s Gospel that the owner of the vineyard is God. He will care for his Church, not by committees or documents, but by raising up saints who will properly tend the vineyard. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) Rejected stone becoming the cornerstone: A girl named Kristi Yamaguchi was born to a young couple whose parents had emigrated to the U.S. from Japan in the early twentieth century. Unfortunately, one of her feet was twisted. Her parents tried to heal her by means of physical therapy. To strengthen her legs further they enrolled her in an ice-skating class. Kristi had to get up at four AM on school days to do her practice in the ice rink before she went to school. This helped her to develop into a world-class figure-skater. In 1992 Kristi won the gold medal for the United States in women's figure-skating at the XVI Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, 1992! Kristi thus became one of the several examples of “the stone rejected by the builders becoming a cornerstone,” in this case, of the U.S. Women’s Olympic team. -- Kristi is very passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of children. In 1996, Kristi established the Always Dream Foundation whose mission is to encourage, support and, embrace the hopes and dreams of children. In today’s Gospel, after telling the parable of the wicked tenants, Jesus prophesies that, rejected by the Jewish nation, he will become the cornerstone of the Kingdom of God. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
Introduction: The common theme of today’s readings is the necessity of bearing fruit in the Christian life and the consequent punishment for spiritual sterility, ingratitude, and wickedness. In today’s first reading, called Isaiah's Song of the Vineyard, the prophet describes God's care of, and expectations for, His Chosen People. God’s Chosen People have failed to bear fruit in spite of the blessings lavished upon them by a loving and forgiving God. Further, they have been poor tenants in the Lord's vineyard. Hence, God laments: "I expected my vineyard to yield good grapes. Why did it yield sour ones instead?" In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 80), the Psalmist pleads with God to look down from Heaven and to "take care of this vine," knowing that if any good is to come of the vine, it will be the doing of God, not the people. In the second reading, Paul tells Philippians about the high expectations he has for them, reminding them that they need to become fruit-producing Christians by praying and giving thanks and by practicing justice, purity, and graciousness in their lives. Giving a theological explanation of Israel’s history of gross ingratitude through a parable, Jesus, in today’s Gospel, reminds us Christians that, since we are the "new" Israel, enriched with additional blessings and provisions in the Church, we are expected to show our gratitude to God by bearing fruits of the kingdom, fruits of the Holy Spirit, in our lives, and to give God the Glory for these accomplishments.
The first reading (Isaiah 5:1-7) explained: By the late eighth century BC, God's people in the Promised Land had become divided into a Northern Kingdom, Israel, with its capital in Samaria, and a Southern Kingdom, Judah, with its capital in Jerusalem. Assyria, the dominant power in the region, controlled the Northern Kingdom. Isaiah assured both Kingdoms that a new King would come to the throne in Judah and would see to the reunion of the North and the South and the expulsion of the Assyrians. But in the earlier chapters of his prophecy, the prophet had criticized his own unfaithful people. In today’s first reading, called Isaiah's Song of the Vineyard, the prophet describes God's care for, and interest in, His Chosen People. "What more was there to do for My vineyard that I had not done?" Yahweh asks rhetorically. Following the classic Biblical imagery, Isaiah’s prophecy describes Israel as a non-productive vineyard. Though God has done everything necessary to produce a good crop, the vineyard yields only "wild grapes."
From the call of Abraham (about 1800 B.C.), and especially after the Exodus (1300 B.C.), the history of God’s chosen people was one continuous reminder of God's benevolence towards them. But Israel — God's Vineyard – failed Him miserably, producing wild, bitter grapes. Israel disobeyed God by idolatry, perpetuating injustice and shedding the blood of the innocent. We are reminded that the same God of love and benevolence has shown even more love and benevolence to His new ‘chosen people’-- the Church. He sent His prophets to reveal Himself and His message to the Jews, but He has sent His own Divine Son to live and die in our midst – for us! By Baptism, which Jesus instituted, we are made the adopted children of God and heirs of Heaven. But by our cold indifference to God and our excessive attachment to worldly goods, many of us become, and remain, more ungrateful than the Israelites. Thus, we, too, are the unproductive Vineyard the Heavenly Father says He will destroy, laying it waste. Let us pay attention to this strong warning and become His grateful and generous children.
The second reading (Philippians 4:6-9) explained: Since the Christians at Philippi received the Gospel enthusiastically and continued to support Paul after he evangelized them, Paul tells them affectionately of the high expectations he has for them and shows them how they are to become fruit-producing Christians. Using the Greek moralist phrases, "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious," Paul instructs them to accept and live in the true peace of God by “prayer and petition with thanksgiving,” and to “keep on doing what they have learned and received and heard and seen" in him. Paul’s words of instruction as to how the Philippians should be fruit-bearing vines are equally applicable to us. We, too, must grow in our relationship to God through prayers of adoration and thanksgiving. These should be followed by prayers of contrition for our failings, and of petition in which we ask for spiritual and temporal favors for ourselves and for others, living and deceased. Paul assures us, too, that such prayers will bring peace of mind in this life and eternal peace and happiness in the life to come.
Gospel Exegesis: The context and the objective: The parable of the wicked tenants is an allegory told by Jesus during Passover week in the Temple precincts of Jerusalem. A parable normally presents one lesson and the details are not relevant. In an allegory, on the other hand, each detail has a symbolic meaning. This story is one of the three “parables of judgment” which Jesus told in response to the question put forward by the Scribes and the Pharisees about his authority to teach in the Temple. It was intended to be a strong warning to the Jews in general -- and to the Scribes and the Pharisees in particular, as they were planning to kill Jesus, the Messiah for whom Israel had waited for centuries. Thus, this parable of the wicked tenants is a theological summary of the entire history of the ingratitude, infidelity, and hard-heartedness of the Chosen People. Its importance is shown by its appearance in all the three Synoptic Gospels.
The background of the parable: The parable reflects the frictions in tenant- landlord relations in Palestine. Most of the vineyards were owned by rich, absentee landlords living in Jerusalem, Damascus, or Rome, who leased their lands to tenants and were interested only in collecting rent. The country was seething with economic unrest. The working people were discontented and rebellious, and the tenant farmers had picked up the revolutionary slogan, “land for the farmer.” Hence, they often refused to pay the rent previously agreed upon and, in some cases, assaulted the landowner’s representatives. It is natural, then, that Jesus’ parable should reflect the popular hatred of foreign domination and the monopolizing of agricultural land by a rich minority who supported Roman rule.
The Old Testament roots of the parable. The New Jerusalem Bible says of the vineyard image: “The theme of Israel as a vine, chosen and then rejected, had been introduced by Hosea, 10:1, and was to be taken up by Jeremiah, 2:21; 5:10; 6:9; 12:10, and Ezekiel, 15:1-8; 17:3-10; 19:10-14; cf. Ps 80:8-18; and Isiah, Is 27:2-5. Jesus gave it a new twist in the parable of the wicked husbandmen in Mt 21:33-44 and parallel Gospel passages. In John 15:1-2 Jesus unfolds the mystery of the 'true' vine. Other aspects of the vine theme appear in Dt 32:32-33 and [Sirach] 24:17.” This powerful prophetic allegory was so well-known that Jesus' Jewish audience immediately understood that he was talking about them in the parable. But Jesus makes changes in Isaiah's imagery. He makes himself the vineyard owner’s son and adds the concept of "tenant-farmers." Here, instead of Yahweh destroying the wild vines, Jesus' owner, according to the judgment of the audience whom Jesus asked for a judgment, "will bring that wicked crowd to a bad end and leases the vineyard to others who see to it that he has grapes at vintage time." In this parable, the ungrateful and murderous tenants are the uncooperative vines of Isaiah. Jesus then turns the crowd's stern verdict, calling for rejection and destruction, against themselves through a telling quotation of Psalm 118, “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”
The meaning of the parable: As an allegory, this parable has different meanings:
1) Like the Jews, the second- and third-generation Christians also understood God as the landlord. The servants sent by the landowner represented the prophets of the Old Testament. They were to see to it that God’s Chosen People produced fruits of justice, love, and righteousness. But the people refused to listen to the prophets and produced the bitter grapes of injustice, immorality, and idolatry. They persecuted and killed the prophets. (See 1 Kgs 19:10, 14; 2 Chr 24:18-22; 36:15-16; Acts 7:51-53; Mt 23:29-39). As a final attempt, the landowner sent his son, (Jesus), to collect the rent (fruits of righteousness), from the wicked tenants (the Jews). But they crucified him and continued to lead a lives of disloyalty and disobedience. Hence, God’s vineyard was to be taken away from His chosen people and given to a people (Gentile Christians), who were expected to produce fruits of righteousness. “The basic theological thrust of the parable of the vineyard is to place the suffering and death of Jesus in line with the mistreatment of God’s messengers throughout the centuries. (Daniel J. Harrington, SJ). The parable of the vineyard, in both Isaiah’s account and Jesus’ re-formulation of it for his contemporaries, must in some way be a message given by the Holy Spirit to today’s Church. Although we believe in Jesus’ promise that the armies of Hell will not prevail against us, that should not lead us to think that we ourselves cannot squander the gift of the vineyard. (John Kavanaugh, SJ).
2) The Lord’s Vineyard at present is the Church, and we Christians are the tenants from whom God expects fruits of righteousness. The parable warns us that if we refuse to reform our lives, and to become spiritual fruit-producers we, too, could be replaced, just as the old Israel was replaced by us. As good tenants of God's Vineyard, we need to pay serious attention to relating to others as loving fellow-servants to our commonMaster. In the parable, the rent the tenants refuse to pay stands for the relationship with God and with all the people of Israel which the religious leaders refuse to cultivate. This means that before anything else, God checks on how well we are fulfilling our responsibilities to each other as children of God. The parable teaches that instead of glorying in isolated splendor, rejoicing in our privileges and Christian heritage, we are called to deeds of love, compassion, patience, generous assistance, forgiveness and mercy, for these are the witness-bearing personal and corporate actions and attitudes that invite and welcome others into God's kingdom.
The parable also challenges us to ask the question: How do we treat the prophets of our time? Over the centuries, how many prophets in our Christian communities have been rejected, abused and even killed? How did we treat Joan of Arc, Thomas More, Oliver Plunkett and, in our own times, Bishop Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King, the countless victims of violence in Africa, (Rwanda, among other places), Central and South America -- not to mention Northern Ireland? The sad fact is that they were killed not by pagans but by fellow-Christians, tenants in the Lord's vineyard.
The second image: An application of Psalm 118:22-23 introduces a second image at the end of the parable: The Church, the interim expression of the final-age Kingdom, as a building made of stone whose cornerstone is Jesus. This image has its Old Testament roots in Is 8:14-15 and Dn 2:34, 44-45. That Jesus is "head of the corner" affirms his essential role in the salvation of God's people. He is the cornerstone, placed at the corner of the foundation where two rows of stones come together, and also the keystone or capstone completing the arch and supporting the entire structure. Verse 44 is reminiscent of the comment, "You can't break God's laws; you can only break yourself on them," which is rather like saying, "You can't break the law of gravity; you can only break yourself by ignoring it." People in every age have the option of accepting or rejecting Jesus. If we accept Jesus the Son of God Incarnate, and his Church as the cornerstone of our lives, that becomes our sure foundation. If we reject him, we are the losers. Hence, let us build our lives on Jesus Christ, the cornerstone.
Today’s Gospel story (Mt 21:33-43) is both sad tale and a forewarning (Bishop Clarke). First comes the sadly distressing part. Even though so many of us (who call ourselves ‘Christian’) have “found the treasure” –- the Messiah -- many more who were the originally ‘chosen’ people have rejected him because he did not meet their political expectations. These latter folks recognized that Jesus was a Jew, but despite the evidence they denied his Resurrection from the dead; denied that he is the Messiah; and denied that he is the Son of God, the only faithful and true Israelite who could represent his people and save them. The second part or “forewarning” is implicit in the story. Since so many Israelites did not bear fruit (i.e., respond appropriately to their Call to be the light to the Gentiles), the “vineyard” was turned over to others, to Gentiles who would indeed “bear fruit” and harvest the kingdom of God. Therefore, the responsibility to bear fruit, to bring others to the Truth by acting as the light of Christ to the world, will always remain a significant challenge for Christians. If we become lax and our light goes out, then we will be in no better position that the first group who did not believe. In fact, we will be in a worse dilemma, because we believed but stopped acting on that belief. The Call of the Israelites was to be a light to All the Nations. It was not a gift to be hoarded by them, producing a sense of superiority over others. Instead, it was a call to be a Servant for others. Now that same Call falls upon you and me, to be a beacon for Christ. Are we helping to build up the Body of Christ by our thoughts, words, deeds and prayers? Can we see how inactivity on our part might lead to our own personal loss of the vineyard, and consequently the same awesome judgment from the owner?
Life messages: 1) Are we good fruit-producers in the vineyard of the Church? Jesus has given the Church everything necessary to make Christians fruit-bearing: a) The Bible to know the will of God. b) The priesthood to lead the people in God’s ways. c) The Sacrament of Reconciliation for the remission of sins. d) The Holy Eucharist as our spiritual Food and Drink. e) The Sacrament of Confirmation for a dynamic life of Faith. f) The Sacrament of Matrimony for the sharing of love in families, the fundamental unit of the Church. g) The Sacrament of (Last) Anointing to restore and strengthen spiritual life and bring mental emotional and physical healing as well, if that is what God wills h) Role models in thousands of saints We are expected make use of these gifts and produce fruits for God.
2) Are we fruit-producers in the vineyard of the family? By the mutual sharing of blessings, by sacrificing time and talents for the members of the family, by humbly and lovingly serving others in the family, by recognizing and encouraging each other and by honoring and gracefully obeying our parents, we become producers of "good fruit" or good vines in our families and give God the Glory for these accomplishments.
3) Are we ready to face these hard questions? Have we come close to fulfilling God’s dream about us? What kind of grapes do we as a parish community produce? Are they sweet or sour? What is our attitude toward everything God has given to us? Are we grateful stewards for everything God has given to us, or are we like the ungrateful tenants who acted as if they owned everything God had given them? Do we practice justice every day of our lives? Do we recognize the righteousness of God that keeps us from self-righteousness? Do we remember to show mercy? Is our parish a real sign of Jesus' presence and love? What kind of impact do we have? Do we measure the quality of our parish by what happens during Mass, or on what happens when we leave Church? Obviously, both are important but there cannot be one without the other.
JOKES OF THE WEEK:
1) The tenant and the landlord. A lady answered the door to find a man standing there. He had a sad expression on his face. “I’m sorry to disturb you” he said, “I’m collecting money for an unfortunate family in the neighborhood. The husband is out of work, the kids are hungry, and their utilities will soon be cut off. Worse yet, they’re going to be kicked out of their apartment if they don’t pay the rent by this afternoon.” “I’ll be happy to help,” said the woman. Then she asked, “But who are you?” He replied, “I’m the landlord!”
2) Professional advice: TV personality Hugh Downs tells a story about the problem lawyers and doctors often encounter with people who seek to obtain free professional advice at parties and other social events. It seems that a certain doctor and lawyer were having a conversation during a cocktail party. While they were talking, a woman approached the doctor and complained about a sore leg. The doctor listened, then told her about applying cold compresses and keeping the leg elevated and taking aspirin, etc. After she had gone, the doctor turned to the lawyer and said, "I think I ought to send her a bill, don’t you?" The lawyer said, "Yes, I do think you ought to send her a bill." So, the next day, the doctor sent the woman a bill… and the lawyer sent the doctor a bill."
3) "She knows now." A mother ran into the bedroom when she heard her seven-year-old son scream. She found his two-year-old sister pulling his hair. She gently released the little girl’s grip and said comfortingly to the boy, "There, there. She didn’t mean it. She doesn’t know that hurts." He nodded his acknowledgement, and she left the room. As she started down the hall the little girl screamed. Rushing back in, she asked, "What happened?" The little boy replied, "She knows now."
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK: (The easiest method to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).
Fr. Nick’s collection of Sunday homilies from 65 priests & weekday homilies: https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies
Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org/featured-homilies/ (Copy it on the Address bar and press the Enter button)
Fr. Geoffrey Plant’s beautiful & scholarly video classes on Sunday gospel, Bible & RCIA topics: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant20663)
Dr. Brant Pitre’s commentary on Cycle A Sunday Scripture for Bible Class: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-Biblical basis of Catholic doctrines: http://scripturecatholic.com/
Agape Catholic Bible Lessons: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/
Catholic News Movie Review: http://www.catholicnews.com/movies.htm
Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers: http://jimmyakin.com/category/video
No religion, no democracy_ Harvard Law Professor http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=YjntXYDPw44
Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 54) by Fr. Tony: email@example.com
Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C & A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies of Fr. Nick’s collection of homilies or Resources in the CBCI website: https://www.cbci.in. (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, C/o Fr. Jogi M. C. , St. Agatha Church, 1001 Hand Avenue, Bay Minette, Al 36507