The Choice of the Path to Take, Ninth Monday (II), May 30, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Pontifical North American College, Vatican City
Pilgrimage of American Journalists
Monday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
May 30, 2016
2 Pet 1:2-7, Ps 91, Mk 12:1-12

 

Today’s homily was not recorded. The following points were considered: 

  • On the pilgrimage of life, we need to choose the path to take. Today in the readings are presented us two roads, two foundations. The first is set out by St. Peter in today’s first reading. The second is seen in today’s Gospel. Let’s see both so that we might in our turn choose.
  • St. Peter in his second letter talks about the path of God, which is first a path of “grace and peace … in abundance,” in which he has bestowed on us his “divine power” and “precious and very great promises” so that we might “share in the divine nature.” To follow him on that path, however, we must “make every effort” and take an eight-step staircase, growing from faith to virtue (courage) to knowledge to self-control to endurance to devotion to mutual affection and to charity. That’s the path of our journey, the road of growth. We begin with faith trusting in God and therefore on what we reveals. That gives us courage to do the right thing. That courage leads us to a deeper knowledge of Christ and that knowledge of Christ helps us to understand ourselves better and exhibit a greater self-mastery. That self-mastery helps us to persevere in such a way that our endurance becomes increasingly more devout, and that devotion leads to genuine mutual love (philadelphia) and it’s capped by true charity (agape). 
  • That’s not the path we see was taken in the Gospel, which is what happens when we fail to recognize “God’s precious and very great promises” but respond with envy to the giver, failing to receive but wanting to control his gifts.
  • With the image of the vineyard, Jesus was summarizing God’s relations with the Jewish people. As God himself said through the prophet Isaiah: “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting.” The vineyard is ultimately all of God’s people, all of the children he has created. And we are meant to work and cultivate that vineyard. We know that at the beginning of time, God made everything “good” by God and entrusted the “vineyard” of the whole world to the human person, so that in developing these gifts we might participate in God’s work of creation and thereby also share in our own development. God gave us the command to “fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen 1:28). But God gave the house of Israel more than just this stewardship over the great natural endowment of the earth, of creatures, and of human beings. He also made them stewards of a greater gift, the Covenant he had established with the human race. Through Isaiah, he tells us with how much personal care God took in preparing the vineyard of Israel. He “dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it.” God himself, in other words, had done all of the hard work building the “infrastructure” of the vineyard, clearing it so that it can bear fruit, putting a watchtower in it to guard for animals coming to eat the fruit, establishing a wine press so that fruit can immediately produce joy. He gave the “house of Israel” the relatively light task of maintaining that vineyard and bearing fruit from that Covenant.
  • But what happened? God tells us through Isaiah that “he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.” It had the appearance of growth, the outward show of fruit, but the fruit was worth nothing. “Fruit” is always to be interpreted as acts of love, justice, goodness, and faith. This is not what God found. “He expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!” So the owner of the vineyard — God the Father, as Jesus tells us in the parable — sent his servants the prophets to them to remind them of the need to produce good fruit from all God’s gifts and to teach them by word and example how to do so. But their reaction was to kill the messengers; Jesus tells us, “they seized them and beat one, killed another and stoned another.” So God the Father sent others, “more than the first, and they treated them in the same way.” This is precisely what happened to God’s prophets; almost all of them were killed. Jesus, in fact, would later lament over the holy city, Jerusalem, because it was the site of the execution of so many prophets: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” (Mt 23:37).
  • Jesus tells us that after all of those unjust deaths his Father the landowner sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But rather than respond with gratitude for yet one more chance, they said to themselves, “‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” When Jesus said those words, he was telling them precisely what was occurring in their hearts at that moment and prophesying what would happen within a fortnight. That sentiment, “Come, let us kill him” reverberated throughout Pontius Pilate’s Courtyard as they screeched, “Let him be crucified! Let him be crucified!” (Mt 27:22-23). What was essentially going on within their hearts was that they did not want to be stewards of the vineyard, but owners. They did not want to have a God over them; they wanted to be gods themselves. Like power-hungry princes who kill any other claimants to the throne, they killed anyone who tried to teach them otherwise. The great English writer C.S. Lewis once said that the devil always tried to get us to think we’re owners. He wants us to say, like a whining little baby on its most selfish days, “Mine!”: “It’s my life, it’s my work, it’s my money, it’s my family, it’s my future, it’s my Sunday — Mine! Mine! Mine!”
  • But we know that that’s not the end of either story. God’s mercy intervenes. 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 points 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 we will suffer because of the evil 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 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. When we examine our conscience and see the ways in which we have rejected the Lord, we need to build our lives on that cornerstone, because that’s one of the great means by which we will become like him. But it’s also a means by which we can grow in appreciation of his mercy, because we recognize that he has used our sins as the cornerstone of his relationship with us. 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 but build our live on him anew whereas previously we rejected him.
  • Today as we prepare to receive that “Stone rejected by the builders” in Holy Communion — the greatest marvel of all in our eyes and God’s— 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. Christ whom we’re about to receive wants to give us grace and peace in abudance, everything that makes for life and devotion, faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, devotion, mutual affection, brotherly love, and ultimately a share in divine nature. Let’s choose him who has chosen us in this way.

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 2 PT 1:2-7

Beloved:
May grace and peace be yours in abundance
through knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.His divine power has bestowed on us
everything that makes for life and devotion,
through the knowledge of him
who called us by his own glory and power.
Through these, he has bestowed on us
the precious and very great promises,
so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature,
after escaping from the corruption that is in the world
because of evil desire.
For this very reason,
make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,
virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control,
self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion,
devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love.

Responsorial Psalm PS 91:1-2, 14-15B, 15C-16

R. (see 2b) In you, my God, I place my trust.
You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
Say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
R. In you, my God, I place my trust.
Because he clings to me, I will deliver him;
I will set him on high because he acknowledges my name.
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in distress.
R. In you, my God, I place my trust.
I will deliver him and glorify him;
with length of days I will gratify him
and will show him my salvation.
R. In you, my God, I place my trust.

Alleluia SEE RV 1:5AB

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus Christ, you are the faithful witness,
the firstborn of the dead;
you have loved us and freed us from our sins by your Blood.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 12:1-12

Jesus began to speak to the chief priests, the scribes,
and the elders in parables.
“A man planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it,
dug a wine press, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenant farmers and left on a journey.
At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants
to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard.
But they seized him, beat him,
and sent him away empty-handed.
Again he sent them another servant.
And that one they beat over the head and treated shamefully.
He sent yet another whom they killed.
So, too, many others; some they beat, others they killed.
He had one other to send, a beloved son.
He sent him to them last of all, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’
But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’
So they seized him and killed him,
and threw him out of the vineyard.
What then will the owner of the vineyard do?
He will come, put the tenants to death,
and give the vineyard to others.
Have you not read this Scripture passage:

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?”

They were seeking to arrest him, but they feared the crowd,
for they realized that he had addressed the parable to them.
So they left him and went away.

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