Friday, October 10, 2008

Homily 28th Sunday Ordinary Time Year A

Below is my homily for this Sunday's readings. My critique: I wanted to use my reflection on Psalm 23 so bad that I sort of artificially plugged it in to the middle of the homily :) And there's a rather lengthy quote of Lumen Gentium... it's all in the delivery!

Do you remember in our Gospel reading last weekend, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants? In that parable a landowner built a vineyard and put tenants in charge of it while he was gone. But when the landowner sent two groups of servants to collect the produce the tenants beat and killed them. Finally, out of great patience, the landowner sent his only son but the tenants seized him, threw him out of the city, and killed him also so that they could acquire his inheritance. In return the landowner put those wretched men to a wretched death and put new tenants over his vineyard. From this we learned that the landowner is God, the vineyard was Israel, the tenants where the Jewish leaders, and the servants that they killed were the Old Testament prophets sent to them to warn them of their sins. Most importantly, the son is Jesus Christ who was also rejected, taken outside the walls of Jerusalem, and crucified. The Jewish leaders were punished when Rome marched on Jerusalem in AD 70 and destroyed the city. And the new tenants are the Apostles placed in charge over the people of the New Covenant. After Jesus told the scribes and the Pharisees this parable they became furious because they realized Jesus was describing them as the wicked tenants. They tried to seize Jesus, just as the parable foretold, but His multitude of believers prevented them.

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus follows up that parable with another one of similar meaning, the Parable of the Wedding Feast. Despite their anger towards him, Jesus wishes to drive the point home to the scribes and Pharisees even further. Here, the king is God who prepares a wedding banquet for his son, Jesus Christ. His servants are, again, the prophets sent to summon Israel to the feast. But Israel, the invited guests, refused. So, just as in last week’s parable, the king sent a second group to plea with them to come to the feast. At this point in the story our Lord reveals the disposition of their hearts in a way that he didn’t in the parable before.

In both parables a small group takes it upon themselves to seize, beat, and kill the servants sent to them. But, in this one, Jesus tells us about the wider community of Israel. Outside of the violent minority – the Jewish leaders – are many who, as St. Matthew puts it, simply “ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.” This preoccupation with worldly affairs is the fundamental reason why a vast majority of the Jews rejected Jesus. “Because some of the invited guests ignored the prophets and others killed them, God, again, will destroy their city, Jerusalem, and send other servants as apostles to invite Gentiles this time, good and bad, to the celebration.” From this parable then we can discern two lessons, the First, of Ignorance and the Second, of the Universal Call to Holiness.

When we examine our spiritual lives do we find that we too have been like the invited guests who ignored the invitation to the banquet and busied ourselves in worldly affairs? Our Lord is calling us to Himself in a thousand different ways every day in both natural and supernatural ways. Intimacy with God and eternal life with him is the banquet too which we are called and we have so many means available to us that give a foretaste of that feast. St. Paul said in our second reading that “God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” These “glorious riches” are the banquet of graces available to us in the Church. Through the Sacraments especially we can taste of eternal life but so many of us would rather just shrug our shoulders. Many of us today will taste eternal life when we receive Holy Communion in a few short moments. But at the same time, I’m sure we can all call to mind family members or friends who have fallen away from the Church and haven’t honored the invitation as we have. This can be a great source of pain and frustration, especially after having experienced the new life and joy that these graces bring. Perhaps some of you here have fallen away, but for one reason another found your way here today. I welcome you and encourage you to accept our Lord’s invitation to return to him in sacramental confession so that you may soon partake of the royal banquet of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

The dignity of this feast, symbolized in our parable by its being prepared by a king, with fattened calves and cattle, and with double-invitations, adds great weight to the error of ignoring it. This is a royal banquet, a wedding feast! And, on top of that, it is freely given! How can we possibly ignore it? In last week’s parable, the servants were sent to collect what already belonged to the landowner, the tenants only had temporary oversight of the produce. But today we hear of this great feast being freely offered to all, if only they respond. We have only to follow the Good Shepherd and he will lead us to eternal life and intimacy with the King. But we must forsake worldly interests for eternal realities in order to follow him.

When I was doing some research for this homily I came across a wonderful reflection on our responsorial psalm, the very famous psalm of our Lord, the Good Shepherd. Did you know that the early Church Fathers have interpreted it as a hymn on the Sacraments? This shows us that throughout salvation history, from the Old Testament psalms to the New Testament letters, God has been constantly, without fail, calling us to Himself. The phrase, “Beside restful waters he leads me, he refreshes my soul”, refers to the waters of Baptism, washing away our sins. “He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake” refers to Confirmation, the sacrament in which we are empowered and lead by the Holy Spirit in a new way. “With your rod and your staff that give me courage” refers to Penance with the rod of absolution empowering us to combat future sin and the staff of priestly guidance helping us to avoid sin’s clever ways. “You spread the tables before me” refers to… you guessed it… the Eucharist, the heavenly banquet which will be prepared for us shortly. “Even though I walk in the dark valley” refers to the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick in which we are given the grace to “fear no evil” and to avoid the “dark valley” of despair. “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” refers to the anointing of Holy Orders, of ordination, and of the chalice overflowing with the Precious and saving Blood of our Lord. Finally, in Matrimony where a man and woman become one with each other and with Christ, “Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life.” By finding in our psalm all seven sacraments, we see an image of the entire life of the Church, replete with supernatural ways to follow the Good Shepherd to the heavenly banquet.

But, this multitude of “glorious riches” does not mean that ordinary, natural ways to holiness do not exist. And it does not mean that only a “supernatural, super-holy few” are capable of responding. This leads me to the second lesson I have found in our readings: The Universal Call to Holiness. This teaching was a hallmark of the Second Vatican Council and its document on the Church entitled Lumen Gentium, “the Light of the Nations.” We see this universal call in all of our readings today. In our reading from Isaiah, “the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples” and he draws them together as one nation by destroying the veils and the webs that separate them. In our Responsorial psalm, the Good Shepherd, the Kind Host, spreads the tables before us, even in the sight of our foes. In our second reading, despite the ups and downs of life, and weather we share in each others’ distress or not, the Lord is offering his strength and is ready to supply whatever we need. Finally in our gospel, the invited guests refused and so the servants where instructed to invite whomever they could find. The Jews and Gentiles alike were invited. “Thus,” the second Vatican Council teaches us,

all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness… a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history. The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one-that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father and worship God the Father in spirit and in truth. These people follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in His glory. Every person must walk unhesitatingly according to his own personal gifts and duties in the path of living faith, which arouses hope and works through charity. (LG 40, 41)

Let us pray with St. Augustine, “Help us, Lord, to disown our vain excuses. We want to attend the banquet… Don’t allow our pride or sensuality or attachments or idle curiosity to get in the way of our attendance. Make sure that we show up… We have been invited by the wealthy one who became poor for our sake… We will come as sick people, since we need the divine doctor to cure our ills. We will come as lame people, and we will tell him: “Keep steady my steps according to thy promise’ (Ps 118:133).”


Amy M. said...

This one is really good, Matty. I'm not sure you need the lengthy introduction, though. A brief reference to the basics of what the previous homily was about will suffice...otherwise I think you'd lose them before you get to the good stuff. But that's my humble opinion :-)

Amy M. said...

Btw, did you ever hear Fr. Ryland preach while you were here? His homilies are alot like this. He would bring the documents of Vatican II to the pulpit with him!

Padre Paulus said...


nice job. I echo the comments on length. There's always something to be said for brevity, but without sacrificing "the meat" of what you have to say. You'll find that some weekends require more, and some do not. Just depends on who is preaching and who you are preaching to.

I see that three years of seminary formation have born fruit. I'm sure that this pastoral year will bear the same. Keep up the good work...


p.s.- it's about time you started posting again...