Friday March 16, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week in Lent
Reading (Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28)
Gospel (St. Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46)
In the Gospel reading, we hear that the chief priests and the Pharisees realized He (Jesus) was talking about them. It was certain that was the case, not only because of the context but also because He was talking about a vineyard owner and a vineyard. If we go back to the prophet Isaiah, he talks about a vineyard. "The vineyard of the Lord," he says, "is the house of Israel." So it is made very clear in Scripture that this is the vineyard that is being discussed. It is Israel itself, the house of Israel. They are to provide grapes or fruit for the Lord. Just as Our Lord tells us in the Gospels that we are to bear fruit and our fruit must last. He has leased out His vineyard to us as the new tenants. We need to make sure that we are bearing fruit or just like the chief priests and Pharisees "...He will bring that crowd to a bad end and lease out his farm to others who will see that He gets His share of grapes at the harvest time."
We need to ask ourselves, "Are we making sure that we are providing the share of grapes for Our Heavenly Father?" He is the owner of the vineyard, we are the tenants. More than that, we are actually part of the vineyard. Jesus said that He is the vine and we are the branches. In this vineyard of the Lord, we are the vines that are actually bearing the fruit. Not just the ones that are tending the vines, but we are to bear the fruit. Are we doing that? Are we bearing fruit for Our Heavenly Father?
Or instead, do we look at it the other way - the way that Josephís brothers did. It became a matter of jealousy. It became a problem between them and they wanted to get rid of Joseph. They wanted him out. He was talking about what was going to happen, the fruit that was going to be borne and how his brothers would bow down before him. He would have all this authority and they couldnít handle that because they wanted it for themselves. They could not handle the fact that their father loved Joseph more.
Well, what do we do? When we see people with gifts and talents that are greater than ours or different than ours, sometimes we get jealous. When we see God working in someoneís life in a way that we think He ought to be working in ours, we get angry. And we hold the person in contempt as though somehow it is that personís fault because they are cooperating with God and we are not. Or because God is working in their life differently than He is working in ours. Rather than looking at what Heís doing in our life, we get jealous because we see what Heís doing in somebody elseís.
What we need to be able to do is simply to look back at ourselves. Keep in mind always that the gifts God has given to us are different than the gifts He has given to others and ask "What am I supposed to be doing?" Rather than worrying about what is happening in somebody elseís life, what I should be doing is glorifying God for what Heís doing in that other person. Then ask the question: "Lord, what do You want of me?" Instead, what we find easier to do as human persons, and itís a tragic thing, we find it a lot easier to do nothing ourselves and then be angry because somebody else is doing something. So we try to destroy the one whoís doing something just to make sure that we donít look so bad. Because after all, if somebody is doing what they are supposed to do, then I look bad because Iím not doing anything. Or at least Iím not doing much of what Iím supposed to be doing. We need to look at out own motives rather than looking at everybody else. What good is that going to do us anyway?
Unless what we are trying to do is glorify God for what He is doing in the life of another person, we need not be looking at them at all. We have no reason to. All we need to be doing is looking at the Lord and asking Him, "What do You want of me?" If we look at Josephís brothers, they are the tribes of Israel. Yet, rather than looking at God and saying, "We are the ones who have inherited everything from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob", they looked at their brother. They looked at the human rather than at the divine. And they got caught in the trap. Human nature hasnít changed at all and we do the same thing, unless we are aware of it. So we need to make sure that we are not looking at all the other vines to see what kind of fruit they are providing for the Lord. We are not to be comparing and saying, "Huh, the cluster of grapes I have is better than that one." Or to say, "Why does that guy have better grapes than I do?" and then go cut them off hoping they will die and their grapes will go bad.
What we should do is simply say, "Praise God for what He has given to that person: all that he has." Then look back and say, "Thank You Lord for what You have given to me." Then ask the simple question: "What is it that You want of me? What do You want me to do? How can I bear greater fruit?" rather than worrying about what anybody else is doing. Let God worry about that. All we need to worry about is what we are doing for the Lord. Are we loving Him? Are we loving our neighbor? Are we doing what we ought to be doing and bearing fruit for the Lord, so that when the Lord comes, as He has sent His Son, we will give to Him the share of His grapes at the harvest time?
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.