Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Solemnity of St. Patrick, Patron of the Archdiocese of New York
Friday of the Second Week of Lent
March 17, 2017
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 the Responsorial Psalm today, we repeatedly cry out, “Remember the marvels the Lord has done!” And we can speak for the rest of our lives about God’s marvels. But among God’s greatest marvels is how he takes our and others’ sins and not only seeks to forgive them but to make them part of our and others’ salvation. In today’s readings and feast day we see that wondrous lesson powerfully illustrated.
- 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. The fact that Jacob loved Joseph the most didn’t mean he didn’t love the other brothers, but their envy led them not only to close themselves to the love their father had for them but also the love they should have for him. Their envy led them, as Genesis tells us, to “hate [Joseph] so much that they would not even greet him” and that interior poison led them much further. When Joseph 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. But we know that that’s not the end of either story. God’s mercy intervened. God always seeks to bring good out of evil and in this case 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. This is a marvel in our eyes!
- We see a similar turnaround in the Gospel. Jesus prophesies his own 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 we know that that’s not the end of story, either. God brought the greatest good out of the greatest vil. 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!
- And today we have a third great illustration of this principle in the life of St. Patrick. Born in Britain, Patrick did not have much of a life of piety until he was captured by raiders at the age of 16 and sold into slavery in Ireland. But the Lord used his slavery as a time to liberate him spiritually and help him to grow in faith. Patrick said that during the six years he tended his master’s herds, he prayed constantly in the daytime and prayed almost as much at night, sometimes spending all night outdoors in prayerful vigil of the dawn. One night in a dream, he heard a voice telling him to be ready for a brave effort to secure his freedom. And he trusted in the dream. In the morning, Patrick escaped and hustled 200 miles to a boat that he saw in the dream was about to depart. After adventures and hardship during which he was able to bring many of the ship’s crew to conversion — another marvel of the Lord! — he arrived home. But after several days of joyous reunion with the family he loved very much, he began to be moved in prayer and in dreams to think of all those back in Ireland who had never known the Gospel. Against the wishes of his beloved family, he decided to use his newly found freedom to dedicate himself to returning to the land of his captors, to preach to them the truth that would set them free. The Lord used his slavery to teach him the language he would need, to help him develop the necessary zeal, to return to lead the Irish to salvation. He had no illusions, however, about how difficult the task was that lay in front of him. He went to France to prepare for the priesthood so that he would be able to bring the greatest gift of all, the presence of the Lord in the sacraments, to his missionary land. In France, he prayed, fasted and readied himself for 20 years. At the age of 43, having been consecrated bishop so that he could found churches and ordain priests, he set off with a few apostolic collaborators. Over the course of the next 30 years, he labored tenaciously for the conversion of the nation. As one of the great “Lenten” saints, he famously fasted for 40 days and 40 nights on what is now called Croagh Patrick in prayerful bodily supplication that those entrusted to him would receive the Gospel with faith. Village by village, chieftain by chieftain, he planted the seed of the Gospel. Though his life was in constant peril due to the hatred of the druids — much like the hatred of Joseph’s brothers — he soldiered on, and through prayer, mortification, disputation, and miracles, his life of faith bore enormous fruit. Twelve years after his arrival, he was able to found the Church of Armagh, Ireland’s primatial see. By the time of his death in 461, the whole nation was Christian.
- He renewed his faith every morning when we vested by praying a prayer he wore on a patch underneath his clothes. It’s called St. Patrick’s breastplate or Lorica. It’s one of my favorite prayers. Three of the verses are particularly powerful when it comes to growth in faith in God’s marvels so that we can cooperate more fully when we are suffering, to allow the Lord to use those difficulties to reveal his power. In the fourth verse he prays, “I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me: God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to guard me, God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to protect me, God’s host to save me from snares of devils, from temptations of vices, from everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and near, alone and in multitude.” No matter what would come, he would trust in God who could save him and use that circumstance to save others. In the sixth verse he proclaimed that no matter the circumstances, he knew that God was with him: “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.” And in the final verse he renewed his trust in God the Savior in every circumstance: “I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through belief in the threeness, Through confession of the oneness, Of the Creator of Creation. Salvation is the Lord’s, salvation is the Lord’s, salvation is Christ’s. May Thy salvation, O Lord, be always with us.”
- The real strength of St. Patrick’s life became his relationship with God whom he came to know intimately in Holy Communion. This was the ground of his confidence that Christ was with him no matter what difficulties or rejections he needed to endure. Today as we prepare to receive that same “Stone rejected by the builders” in Holy Communion — the greatest marvel of all in our eyes and God’s, what St. Thomas called the O Res Mirabilis! (O marvelous reality!) — we ask him for the grace to remain faithful with him even as we endure in life difficulties, even betrayals, so that he may use them for our salvation and others’ and come to experience forever the joy St. Patrick now knows.
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.
One day, when his brothers had gone
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?Therefore, I say to you,
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.