If you were unable to attend Mass at Holy Comforter this weekend, or just want to read Father Joseph Mary’s Sunday homilies at your own leisure, we are happy to make them available here. The homily for the most recent week will be published in this space, and previous homilies will be linked below. Our archive begins with Father’s homily from April 2, 2017.
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.
Anxiety in a religious context is a lack of dependence on God, or trust that God is on your side at work in us that God cares for us. In today’s first reading, the prophet describes God’s care 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.
I always envy and pity the chosen People. God really loved them more that all the peoples on earth. God has chosen them to be His own people, not because they were very extraordinary people, but because of His love which is a free gift. They did not do anything special to attract the heart of God so that He might love them. His love was based on his generosity and grace.
During the time of famine, God protect them by letting them go to Egypt to escape death and bitterness. In Egypt the situation became dangerous for their safety under the reign of Pharaoh, so God, by the strength of His arm, delivered them from slavery. In the desert when they were hungry, God fed them with a food from heaven; when thirsty he gave them a spring water. He protected them as a mother does for her children. He made a covenant with them and sent them many prophets to nourish them spiritually and to remind them his law. What a God of love.
But 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?” This story of Israel is the story of each of us. It is the history of our relationship with God. God has been generous and loving in blessing us in so many ways! And these blessings are to be protected, nourished and cared for, so that we can return the abundant harvest to God. We are the vineyard! We can rejoice in our gifts, but we must also remember that the gifts are bestowed on loan and God expects good fruit from his vineyard.
In the second reading, Paul tells the Philippians about the high expectations he has for them. In reality it is not Paul but God who demands accountability from them. Paul reminds 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. This same warning is for us. God is disappointed in us when we lazily sit back and allow weeds to grow within our lives. God expects us to recognize the dignity of our gifts, the beauty of our lives, the joy of our families and neighborhoods.
While Isaiah says that the vineyard will be destroyed, Jesus in the gospel states that only the tenants will be replaced and the vineyard will be kept. In the gospel today we see the love of God for us. In fact, God does not destroy us because of our infidelity and refusal to do his will. He is patient with us; what He seeks first of all is our conversion. The handing of the vineyard to other workers instead of its destruction translates this intention of God. When God the vineyard owner found the chosen people not producing the desired fruits, and even rejected Jesus, God invited the Gentiles to take over so that He will receive what He deserves. In this way we can say that the rejection of Jesus was turned into a blessing for all! God transforms even a failure into success and knows also how to draw wonderful things from the sin of man. “The stone that builders rejected has become the cornerstone” and this is the marvelous thing the Lord has done for us.
We all recognize those decisive moments, those turns of conscience, those insights of new beginnings in our lives, those gracious opportunities of reconciliation with God or with our neighbors, the voice of God through the voice of a friend or a family member, in a sermon, in silence, in reading of the Scripture. These are the moments that God uses to invite us to conversion. All these are the occasions when God is knocking at my door, waiting for my answer. How do we react? Did we listen to Him? Did we even try to change the style of our life? Perhaps, no.
Today that same appeal from God comes yet again to us. How do we react to it? Are we good fruit-producers in the vineyard of the Church? We have all we need to be fruitful. We have the Bible to know the will of God. We have the priesthood to lead us in God’s ways. We have the sacrament of Reconciliation for the remission of sins. We have the Holy Eucharist as our spiritual food. We have role models in thousands of saints. We are expected to make use of these gifts and produce fruits for God.
What is wrong with us? Paul himself understood how he had failed to respond to God’s love. But God was merciful to him by giving him a new start. Our new opportunity is today! Let us do what we need to do so that God’s favor may not be in vain.