Monday June 4, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Ninth Week In Ordinary Time
Reading (Tobit 1:1, 3; 2:1a-8) Gospel (St. Mark 12:1-12)
In the Gospel reading, Jesus talks about the owner of a vineyard. We are told that the chief priest and the Pharisees recognized He was talking about them. They would have noticed this immediately because in the fifth chapter of the Book of Isaiah we also read about a vineyard. "God," it says, "planted a vineyard." That vineyard was the house of Israel. We are told that He put in the choicest plants, He dug out a vat and put up a tower to guard it, and He put up a wall and shrubs. Still, when he came to look for the grapes, there were sour grapes rather than good grapes. So, He allowed His vineyard to be destroyed.
Jesus even goes one step beyond that today. He talks about the fact that God had sent prophets many, many times. He said, "He sent His servants and one they killed, another they beat. Finally, he thought, 'Well, if I send My Son at least they will respect Him'." Now, we can look back at that and say, "Look at what the people did in Israel. Every time God sent a prophet to them, they killed him!" All the prophets were killed. Finally, of course, God sent His Son into the world and we killed Him too.
Two thousand years separate from that we can look back and say, "Jesus is the Son of God. We know that and believe that, so we would not have killed Him." But the people in Israel did the exact same thing. For instance, at the time of Jesus it would have been about 700 years beyond when the prophets were. Five hundred years for Jeremiah, 200 years for Ezekiel. They looked back and these were prophets that their ancestors had killed and they said, "No, we believe that they were prophets." Then Jesus was in their midst and they killed Him.
We could ask ourselves, "Would we be any different?" We look back and say, "Of course, we believe in the prophets and we believe in Jesus." But if there were somebody who came into the world today proclaiming to be some kind of prophet, what would we do? We would naturally, of course, be skeptical. But there are some we can trust and we can count on. We need to ask ourselves, "How have we listened to the prophets of the Lord? Have we been obedient to the Holy Father? Have we listened to him and accepted his teachings? Have we accepted all the teachings of the Church?" We know that everything the Church teaches is absolute truth. We do not have to question that. We do not have to wonder - that is something we know. Yet, people in our day continually reject the Lord, they reject His Church, they reject the Pope, and they reject the teaching authority of the Church. They want to do it their own way.
We can ask ourselves, "Have we been obedient to the teachings of the Church?" That is what we see Tobit doing in the first reading. We are told that Tobit sat down for dinner and he heard that one of their kinsmen had been killed. By Jewish law, when somebody dies they have to be buried within a day. So, Tobit goes to the marketplace and brings the body back to bury after sunset. The problem is that Tobit had already done this once before. Having done this once before, the people, of course, thought he must have killed the person. It looked like he was trying to hide the body. If he took the body and buried it, it looked like he was the one who had killed him. All the neighbors were saying, "Doesn't this man ever learn? He already got in trouble once for doing this. Why is he doing it again?"
We can ask the same question about ourselves. When things do not go our way, when things are difficult for us, even when we are doing what is right, sometimes we think, "Maybe I should not do this anymore. People might think I am strange or people may not like me because I am doing what is right." We water down the truth and do not uphold it the way we should. In essence, we are rejecting the Lord. We are rejecting His Church and we are rejecting the truth when we do that. We find, in that way, that we are no different from those other people.
Each one of us needs to look at our own lives and our own commitment to Jesus Christ. We need to say, "I will be faithful to Jesus no matter what. It does not matter what happens. It does not matter what comes." It does not matter what anybody thinks of us. All that matters is we are going to be faithful to Jesus. That is the decision we have to make. If we are going to be faithful to Jesus, we have to be faithful to His Church. We need to be faithful to the prophets He sends into the world - those are the popes and bishops who teach us the truth. We must be faithful to the Church. That is what is being asked of us. We cannot be like those others, looking back and saying, "Yes, we believe in the prophets. We believe in the apostles. We believe in the saints of the earlier Church. But not the ones of today." God raises up saints in every age and He continues to preach His truth through His chosen vessels. We need to be willing to say: "Yes, we will accept and we believe no matter what."
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.