A Second Chance to Do God’s Will, Third Tuesday of Advent, December 13, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent
December 13, 2016
Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr
Zeph 3:1-2.9-13, Ps 34, Mt 21:28-32

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • The essential dynamism of Advent is that Christ is coming, we need to make straight the paths to go out to meet him, and, having encountered him, to be transformed in him so deeply that we begin to journey with him henceforth. The Lord comes with his mercy and we go out to meet him with our conversion in such a way that we will “turn with” him who is God with us. As we’re in the “twelve days before Christmas,” today’s readings help us to make the conversion necessary, to lower the mountains of our pride and fill up the valleys of anything spiritual shallowness that shirks from seeking to become holy like God is holy.
  • In the Gospel, Jesus gives a parable of two sons. The first refuses to do the father’s will but eventually repents and does, whereas the second merely gives lip service, saying he’ll do it but not following through.  This is an illustration of what Jesus had said elsewhere, that it’s not enough for us to say “Lord, Lord,” but we need to “do the will of [his] Father in heaven.” Jesus illustrates the choice with regard to St. John the Baptist. He came preaching conversion, a message that the prostitutes and tax collectors were acting upon but many of the scribes and elders were not. Similarly, it’s important for us to ask ourselves whether we’ve acted on John’s call to conversion like so many across the centuries have in Advent. All of Advent, in the words of St. John the Baptist, is meant to bring us to change our behavior, not just to say “Amen!” to the Lord but to make our life an illustration of it. The real model of this, of course, is Mary, who not only said “Let it be done to me according to your word,” but then let her entire life develop in accordance with that word. Regardless, today’s parable could be called the parable of a second chance, that after an initial refusal, or many failures to do what God was wanting, he has now given us this Advent in order to go out and work in the vineyard, building his kingdom, bringing others to the same type of conversion in correspondence to grace as we have done.
  • In the first reading, we see not only the need to conversion but the help and hope God gives us. God through Zephaniah pronounces woe on the “rebellious,” “polluted” and “tyrannical” city that “hears no voice,” “accepts no correction” “has not trusted in the Lord” and “has not drawn near to her God.” These are four different descriptions of sin. Sin is a failure to listen to God’s voice and obey it, as Pope Benedict powerfully described in Verbum Domini. When we sin, we often become too proud to receive fraternal correction even for our own good. We fail to trust in God and in his promises. And we marginalize him or withdraw from him. This Advent we’re called to do the opposite: to listen, to seek correction from God and others, to trust ever more in the Lord and draw here to him. Zephaniah describes that if we seek to do this, God will meet us with his mercy. He will “change and purify the lips of the peoples,” he says, so that “they may all call upon the name of the Lord,” “serve him with one accord” and “bring offerings” to him. He promises to create a “remnant” that will be “humble and lowly,” who will “take refuge in the name of the Lord,” who “shall do no wrong and speak no lies,” who shall not speak with deceitful tongues but “pasture and couch their flocks,” essentially who will speak the truth and do their job, serving God, their families and others. The remnant God is creating are those who say “yes” to his will.
  • Today we can give two illustrations of those who not only say yes to God but act on that word. The first is St. Lucy, who like all the saints is characterized by faith in God, even should it cost her her life. She turned to the Lord early in life and offered her virginity to God, but her mother Eutychia had made plans to marry her off to a rich pagan. After her spurned suitor grasped that her vow of virginity likely meant that she was a Christian and turned her over to Diocletian’s persecutorial administration, she was condemned to death in Syracuse, Sicily. What St. Ambrose said of St. Agnes’ virginity we could likewise say of St. Lucy’s: “Virginity is not praiseworthy because it is found in martyrs, but because it itself makes martyrs.” The type of love that leads one to consecrate herself totally to God in response to his love is what makes a person strong in loving him to the end, loving him despite suffering, torture and even execution. When consecrated celibate chastity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, is assumed and lived to the full, it leads to loving fidelity in little and big things, it leads to a daily martyrdom, a witness, of the love we’ve first received and can’t help but radiate. St. Lucy’s total dedication to the Lord is something that today can help us to renew our own, so that we may seek to work in his vineyard all our days.
  • The second figure is Bishop Javier Echevarria, the Prelate of Opus Dei, who died yesterday. He was assistant to St. Josemaria Escriva and Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, succeeding both of them. He wasn’t flashy. He wasn’t particularly eloquent. But he excelled as a doer of the word, encouraging others similarly to do the Lord’s will in the little things of every day, particularly in one’s work. That’s basically the spirit of Opus Dei, which has always been making the path to holiness practical through living a plan of life that allows one to unite one’s whole day to the will of God. Because of his faithfulness in small things, he was invested with big ones and we pray that the Lord has received him among his good and faithful servants who labored in the vineyard full-time for more than six decades.
  • Today as we prepare for Holy Communion, we thank the Lord for giving us the command to “do this in memory of” him and we ask for the grace not just to mouth are responses but to make our whole life a wholehearted existential yes!

 


The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 Zep 3:1-2, 9-13

Thus says the LORD:
Woe to the city, rebellious and polluted,
to the tyrannical city!
She hears no voice,
accepts no correction;
In the LORD she has not trusted,
to her God she has not drawn near.
For then I will change and purify
the lips of the peoples,
That they all may call upon the name of the LORD,
to serve him with one accord;
From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia
and as far as the recesses of the North,
they shall bring me offerings.On that day
You need not be ashamed
of all your deeds,
your rebellious actions against me;
For then will I remove from your midst
the proud braggarts,
And you shall no longer exalt yourself
on my holy mountain.
But I will leave as a remnant in your midst
a people humble and lowly,
Who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD:
the remnant of Israel.
They shall do no wrong
and speak no lies;
Nor shall there be found in their mouths
a deceitful tongue;
They shall pasture and couch their flocks
with none to disturb them.

Responsorial Psalm PS 34:2-3, 6-7, 17-18, 19 and 23

R. (7a) The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
The LORD redeems the lives of his servants;
no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come, O Lord, do not delay;
forgive the sins of your people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’
but afterwards he changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the Kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”