Fr. Roger J. Landry
“The Graces All Catholics Should Receive from the Year for Consecrated Life”
Casa Maria of the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word
March 6-8, 2015
Gen 37:3-4.12-13.17-18, Ps 105, Mt 21:33-43.45-46
To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- In today’s Responsorial Psalm, at the beginning of our retreat, we’re called to “remember the marvels the Lord has done!” It’s a time to come to thank him for salvation history. To thank him for all the blessings of our life, especially since our last retreat. To thank him for getting us here. To thank him for his coming to meet us. But it’s also a chance to thank him for the way he wants to transform even the most difficult sufferings we’ve endured into fertilizer for spiritual growth. If the Lord can transform even the terrible ugliness of envy, betrayal, rejection, into goods, then it is so much easier for us to see how all things can work out for the good for those who love him, how even things that seem disgraces and failures can be transformed into marvels. This is a beautiful, providential, deep way to enter into what God wants to do in us during this retreat to amaze us and through us to stun the world.
- In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, we see how Joseph the future Patriarch’s brothers were envious of him because he was their father Jacob’s favorite. Their envy led them first to “hate [Joseph] so much that they would not even greet him.” But then that interior poison led them much further. When he went out to help his brothers tend the flocks in Dothan, the brothers conspired to plan to murder him and toss his dead body into a cistern and then lie about it to their father by saying a wild beast had devoured him. They wanted to replicate Cain’s invidious and insidious murder of his brother Abel. To save Joseph’s life, one of the brothers, Reuben, persuaded the others just to abandon him into an empty cistern so that he might be able to rescue him later. And so they agreed and threw him down into an inescapable situation, with most of the brothers likely thinking that, while they themselves didn’t shed his blood, it would just be a longer dying process. But then they saw a group of Ishmaelites, basically their second cousins through their grandfather Isaac’s half-brother Ishmael, and sold him into slavery for 20 pieces of silver, not as an act of mercy but of simple profiteering from what they anticipated would be a situation tantamount to his death in Egypt. At every stage, the envy at his good fortune led to evil. Their brotherly betrayal was a prophetic type of what would eventually happen to Jesus when he would be sold by one of his spiritual brothers, one of his closest friends, for silver, too.
- Jesus describes that betrayal, and the envy that led to it, in today’s Gospel. Jesus spoke to the chief priests and the scribes in a parable about the way they had treated all the messengers God had sent them and how they were going to treat him. In the prophets Israel had often been referred to as a vineyard planted by God. God had made the Israelites stewards of that vineyard but expected a harvest when vintage time grew near. The prophets were the ones sent to remind them of that yield of good deeds, but, as Jesus said, “one they beat, another they killed and a third they stoned.” Other prophets were sent and maltreated the same way. Finally God sent his Son but, in prophetic tones that would be fulfilled in the cry of “Crucify Him!” in Pontius Pilates’ praetorium, they shouted out, “This is the heir. Come let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.” They wanted to be owners, not stewards, and were prepared to kill in order to maintain their privileges. They wanted to be the ones in charge of the inheritance of faith, not God himself. The chief motivation behind the persecution of the prophets and the crucifixion of Jesus, it is implied, was envy, envy that led to a hatred so much that it resulted in homicide.
- But that’s not the end of either story. God always seeks to bring good out of evil and in both cases God’s goodness triumphed over the worst of human wickedness. Joseph’s being sold for 20 pieces of silver, becoming a slave in Egypt and his ability to interpret dreams eventually brought him to the attention of Pharaoh and to the second position in the Kingdom, an office he was able to use not only to save millions of Egyptians lives during a time of famine but also his family. Likewise, Jesus’ being sold for 30 pieces of silver, taking on the appearance of a slave in order to serve us all and enduring the worst of nightmares led him to save not only millions of Egyptian lives and so many fellow Israelites but the entire human race, including those who had conspired to have him crucified. To use his own words, quoting the Psalms, “The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.” That is indeed a marvel in our eyes!
- These considerations should lead to three sets of resolutions on our part. The first is about the terrible evil of envy and the destruction to which it leads. Envy is sadness and anger about someone else’s being blessed, it’s a coveting of what others have that knows no limit. We need to see it for the capital sin that it is. And the greatest way to oppose envy is to be grateful for all we have rather than upset at what we don’t have and to thank God for the way he’s blessed others, especially our family members and friends.
- The second resolution is about how to endure difficulty, hardship and betrayal suffered because of the evil and envy of others. God always seeks to bring good out of evil and we need to have confidence that our hardships endured can lead to our salvation and the salvation of others. “All things work out for the good,” St. Paul writes to the Romans. Especially when we’re in a situation like Joseph or like Jesus, we need to remember that it’s not the whole story, that God can always use that evil for good.
- The third resolution is to build our lives on Christ the Cornerstone. We are able to do that much better paradoxically because we’ve rejected building our life on him in the past and we’ve opened ourselves to his mercy. As we sing in the Exultet at the Easter Vigil, “O Felix Culpa!,” “O Happy Sin, that brought us such a great redeemer.” When we grasp how much we’ve been forgiven, we discover who God is, who we are, how much we’re loved and what we need to do not to reject him again. It’s much easier to build ourselves on him securely when we have learned how not to take him and his mercy for granted.
- Today as we prepare at the beginning of this retreat to receive the “stone rejected by the builders” in Holy Communion — the greatest marvel in our eyes of all — we ask him for the grace to build our entire life on Him, our most secure foundation, to draw good out of all the evil we’ve suffered out account of the envy of others, and to help us never to succumb to that capital sin but rather to rejoice in all that he’s given us and given others. The Lord is continuing to work his marvels — and he will be seeking to do wonders for us on this retreat. Let us say “Amen!” to all he’s seeking to accomplish, and build our existence on what we’re saying Amen to!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
GN 37:3-4, 12-13A, 17B-28A
for he was the child of his old age;
and he had made him a long tunic.
When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons,
they hated him so much that they would not even greet him.
to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem,
Israel said to Joseph,
“Your brothers, you know, are tending our flocks at Shechem.
Get ready; I will send you to them.”So Joseph went after his brothers and caught up with them in Dothan.
They noticed him from a distance,
and before he came up to them, they plotted to kill him.
They said to one another: “Here comes that master dreamer!
Come on, let us kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns here;
we could say that a wild beast devoured him.
We shall then see what comes of his dreams.”When Reuben heard this,
he tried to save him from their hands, saying,
“We must not take his life.
Instead of shedding blood,” he continued,
“just throw him into that cistern there in the desert;
but do not kill him outright.”
His purpose was to rescue him from their hands
and return him to his father.
So when Joseph came up to them,
they stripped him of the long tunic he had on;
then they took him and threw him into the cistern,
which was empty and dry.They then sat down to their meal.
Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead,
their camels laden with gum, balm and resin
to be taken down to Egypt.
Judah said to his brothers:
“What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood?
Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites,
instead of doing away with him ourselves.
After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.”
His brothers agreed.
They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.
PS 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21
When the LORD called down a famine on the land
and ruined the crop that sustained them,
He sent a man before them,
Joseph, sold as a slave.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
They had weighed him down with fetters,
and he was bound with chains,
Till his prediction came to pass
and the word of the LORD proved him true.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
The king sent and released him,
the ruler of the peoples set him free.
He made him lord of his house
and ruler of all his possessions.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
MT 21:33-43, 45-46
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it,
dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them,
thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
“He will 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.”
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?
the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables,
they knew that he was speaking about them.
And although they were attempting to arrest him,
they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.