Monday June 3, 2002 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Peter 1:2-7) Gospel (St. Mark 12:1-12)
In telling this parable and speaking clearly to the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders (as Saint Mark tells us), Jesus is making a very clear point because in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we are told that the house of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord; and He is talking about how God had planted a vineyard. In the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, we also read that God put only the finest of vines in there, and when He came to get His part of the harvest, He found that what was there were wild grapes rather than cultivated grapes. So He dug up the whole thing, turned it over, and just let it be. The people of Israel would have known this particular story from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah very well. When Jesus used this parable, they knew immediately who He was aiming it at.
Each of the servants who had been sent, of course, is one of the prophets of old who had been sent to them to call them to holiness and to be able to obtain for God what was Godís; but they beat them and killed them. We also see the astounding mercy of God. He says, "I have but one more that I could send. I will send My Son." But when a personís mind becomes thoroughly selfish and perverted, they are no longer able to think correctly. And so the thought was: "We can kill this one and the inheritance will be ours."
For us now as we look at it, it is precisely the fact that they killed the Son of God that the inheritance is ours. God rejected those people who killed Our Lord, but He has chosen others. He has given His vineyard to others and He is still going to expect His share of the grapes at the proper time. The inheritance is indeed ours. We can look at that beloved Son and we can say, "Look! Here is the One who is going to inherit everything." If they kill Him, we receive the inheritance; but only if we unite ourselves with Him - not if we try in turn to kill Him and become selfish and say, "Itís my vineyard. I can do this. Itís my stuff. I want it all!" Then we are doing it wrongly.
Each one of us is a hired hand in the vineyard of the Lord, and He is asking us to cultivate the vines. He is asking us to bring forth good fruit in abundance. And He is asking us to give Him His share. Now I donít know about you, but I have learned one thing in my life; that is, anything that is good, God gets all of it, because I canít take any credit for anything that is good other than the fact that I happened to show up. He did the rest. Anything that is not good, any wild grapes, God gets no credit; thatís my fault. So if we are going to give God His share of the grapes, it is literally to give Him His share of the grapes Ė which means all of it. It all belongs to Him. We cannot be taking credit for it as if it is something we did; but rather, it is what He has done.
Saint Paul makes it very clear that when we leave the evil behind, then we can become partakers of the divine nature because it is only God who can give us the divinity. If we are going to do anything which is meritorious of eternal life, it is only by acting according to His nature. So even there, we see it is Him doing it in us. That whole series of things, then, that Saint Peter told us at the end of the first reading Ė that is, to "supplement faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love" Ė that is precisely what we need to be trying to do: to recognize that God has given to us a share in His divine nature.
He wants us to be holy. He wants us to be saints. And His share of the grapes from each one of us is not merely doing a few good works, but it is becoming holy so that the works we do are going to be holy works. It will be God working in us and through us to be able to produce the fruit that He wants to produce in us and through us. Then we will recognize and we will know without a shadow of a doubt that these things that have been done, they were not us; they were done by God. He gets all the glory. He gets His share of the grapes, which means that we simply work to give Him the greatest harvest that we possibly can, and that we give Him all of the glory because He is the One who gave us the divine nature to be able to act in this manner, and He is the One who gives us the grace to be able to do the work. All that we can take credit for is that we said, "Yes, I will cooperate." Otherwise, He gets all the credit. So when we hear about Him looking for His share of the grapes, He is offering to us our inheritance, which is everything. All that He wants is His share of the grapes - and that means everything.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.