Friday March 1, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Lent
Reading (Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a)
Gospel (St. Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46)
In the Gospel reading, Jesus speaks to the chief priests and the Pharisees about this vineyard owner. In the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, we read that the vineyard of God is the house of Israel. And so it is God Himself who planted a vineyard. Isaiah tells us that He planted only the choicest vines, but when it came to harvest time all that He received were wild grapes instead of the choice grapes that he was looking for, and that He allowed his vineyard, then, to be overrun and dug up and destroyed. That was what happened at the time of the Exile. Now the vineyard is once again planted, and, once again, the vineyard did not bring forth the harvest that was being sought. God had sent His prophets, His servants, to speak to His people, and they killed them. Now He had sent His Son. They dragged Him outside of Jerusalem and they killed Him, thinking that everything that was supposed to be inherited by the Son is what they themselves would inherit.
Now we are the vineyard of Israel; we are the ones that God has planted, the New Israel, the New Jerusalem. The question now is what is our response? Do we respond the exact same way, like the brothers of Joseph who sold him into slavery and allowed him to go into Egypt and wanted to kill him because they did not like what he had to say? Are we like the Jewish people at the time of Jesus, who did not want to hear what He had to say so they sold Him off and they killed Him? If we look at ourselves and see that, while we try to follow the Lord fairly close, we keep telling ourselves, "We don't really need to believe this. We don't have to follow that. This isn't really necessary for us to do," what we are doing is telling the Lord that He needs to go outside the city and there we will crucify Him again; that in our life, we do not have to listen to Him; that we do not want what He has to say. We agree with most of what He says - so did the chief priests and the scribes and Pharisees agree with most of what He said. There were a few things they did not like, and it was for that that they had Him crucified.
And so, we can ask ourselves: What kind of grapes are we providing for God? When He looks for the harvest, what are we going to offer Him? When He sends to us His messengers, how do we deal with them? Do we reject the message? Maybe we have not literally killed any of the prophets of God, but if we pay them no attention, we are killing the Word of God. Do we listen to what Jesus tells us? Or have we just heard the words of Jesus so many times in our lives that they go in one ear and out the other, and they really do not have much effect? We hear them, but we do not do them. We need to hear the Word of God and put it into practice, Scripture tells us.
So we, now, are the ones who are in the vineyard. We know what has happened to the slaves. We know what has happened to the Son. And now the question is are we going to give to the vineyard owner His share of the grapes at the harvest time? Are we going to provide for Him everything He deserves and everything He is looking for? Or are we going to tell His Son to get out of the vineyard, that we do not want what He has to say, that we do not need Him, that while we like what He offers, we want it for ourselves and we do not want to give the grapes to God? That is the choice we have to make. We are members of the New Israel, of the New Jerusalem. We are the tenants of the vineyard and God is the vineyard owner. He has planted each one of us as a choice vine in His vineyard, and He is looking for the best grapes at harvest time. Are we willing to give to Him the very best and to offer Him what is His when he looks for it?
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.