Sunday Sermon for October 2, 2011, the Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Is 5:1-7; Phil 4:6-9; Mt 21:33-43
In the first reading and in the Gospel we hear very similar messages. Both are about a vineyard, in the first the vines produced wild grapes whereas in the second the tenant farmers refused to give the vineyard owner his share of the profits, in both we see the vineyard being taken away, destroyed in the first instance and given to others in the second. The point, however, is the same: produce fruit or be removed.
This becomes important for us today in a world that is spinning quickly out of control. So many have turned their backs on God, so many have left the Church and so many in the Church are barely lukewarm. Whether we want to see ourselves as the vines in the vineyard or as the tenants who are given the task of tending the vines, the problem remains the same: God is not being given what He is looking for from His Church and from those within it.
In our humanness we would like to blame the Pope if things are out of order, but we have been blessed with good and holy Popes, so that is not an excuse. Beyond the Holy Father, we could certainly look at the Bishops and Priests to find that there are a few who are very good, some that are mediocre and then the rest. Even if we do not have saintly pastors, we all still know the truth and we are all still required to live in accordance with that truth. More than this, we are to live the truth in love; we will all be judged according to this standard.
There are many today who seem to think that God will not allow His Church to be destroyed. I suppose that people think this because the Church was founded by our Lord and we have the promise that the jaws of hell will not prevail against her. This is certainly true, and it is also true that the Church will not be destroyed entirely. However, if we look through the Old Testament, we will find people opposing the Prophets when they talked about God destroying His Temple, allowing the country to the ravaged by foreign enemies and allowing the people to go into exile.
Three times the Temple of God was destroyed, numerous times God allowed the enemies of Israel to cause havoc throughout the country, and several times the people were brought captive into foreign lands. All of this was due to the infidelity of the people whether turning to false gods or just turning a cold shoulder to the Lord. Jesus spoke of a little flock and of a small remnant which sounds to me like a very severe purification for His Church. St. Peter also told us that the chastisements will begin in the House of God (see Daniel and Ezekiel regarding this as well).
All of this is to say that as we see things out of control in the world, it has to be because things are out of control in the Church. When we look at situations like Bishops saying Masses for dissident groups of homosexual activists, priests trying to perform “weddings” for two persons of the same sex, the loss of faith in the Eucharist, the drastic decline in the number of people going to confession, the immense throng of people who claim to be Catholic but reject various essential teachings of the Church, and so on, we realize that in many ways things are out of control. While the problems began much earlier, the tipping point seems to be the 1968 document Humanae Vitae and the Church’s reaffirmation of the truth of the sacredness of the marital union and, therefore, the sinfulness of anything that violates this physical sign of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.
So, we can know that God is going to purify the Church and the world. There are many today who are causing people to panic about what will happen in the upcoming months. What are we to do? St. Paul, in the second reading tells us not to be anxious about anything. We are to pray with gratitude and the peace of God will fill our hearts and minds. Beyond this, he tells us to keep our focus on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent and worthy of praise. He also instructs us to keep doing what we have learned, received and heard from him.
In other words, just keep our focus on God and the things of God, pray and perform the duties of our state in life, practice true charity toward others and live a virtuous life. If we do these things, we have nothing to fear; in fact, we will have only hope and joy in the Lord.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.