Stay in the Boat with Jesus
October 2, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier†† Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I (Isaiah 5:1-7)††† Reading II (Philippians 4:6-9)
Gospel (St. Matthew 21:33-43)
In the first reading this morning from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, we hear about the Lord who planted a vineyard. He cleared the ground, put up a hedge, put in a tower, planted the very best of the vines He could find, and when He came to find His produce, He found wild grapes instead of good grapes. He goes on to tell us that the vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel, and that the people of Israel are the choicest vines. But because they did not bear good fruit, the Lord goes on to tell us that He allowed the hedge to be torn down and the vineyard to be trampled, the weeds to grow, and the beasts of the field to walk upon it. In the Gospel reading, Our Lord even goes a step further and tells us that because the people of Israel did not do what they were supposed to do the kingdom is taken away from them and given to someone else.
Well, we are the New Israel. We are the choice vines that God has planted in His vineyard. Now the question is, when the Master comes looking for His produce, are we giving Him good fruit? If the kingdom has been taken from the people of Israel and given to the New Israel, which is the Church, where is the fruit? There is certainly nothing lacking in the Churchís sacrifice because it is the sacrifice of Christ. The official prayer of the Church is perfect; it is the Psalms, it is the Word of God. There is nothing lacking in that. But it is the people who are taking part in the sacrifice, those who are offering it and those who are part of it, those who are supposed to be praying the prayers of the Church, that is where there is something lacking. And so if God allowed His vineyard to be destroyed in the past because the people were not bearing good fruit then He is going to allow it to happen again. The vineyard needs to be pruned in a pretty serious manner.
It does not take a genius to be able to see that over the last couple of years the world has been undergoing a purification. I pointed it out numerous times and point it out again, things are going to continue to get worse. But Saint Peter tells us we should not be surprised that there is a fiery ordeal going on in our midst, and then goes on to tell us that the purification begins in the household of God. If we read in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, when Jerusalem is purified, the Lord tells the destroying angels to begin at the temple, and even goes so far as to say, Fill it with the dead bodies and defile it. It was the temple of the Lord. So we see that if God is going to do something it is going to begin with the Church, and that is because every single thing that happens in the world begins at the altar of God. Everything. All of the good that you can see in the world begins at the altar, and all of the evil that you see in the world begins at the altar of God. If the priests were doing what they were supposed to do, the mess in the world would not be happening right now.
Do we need purification? I do not think we even need to answer that question; it is too self-obvious. The Church needs to be purified of the homosexual filth that has been going on for years and children have been being violated. The Church needs to be purified of the political correctness that the bishops have decided is more important than preaching the truth. The Church needs to be purified of self-seeking shepherds that are shepherding themselves and not the sheep. The Church needs to be purified of people who do not want the truth but want to live worldly and pagan lives. The Church needs to be purified of the smoke of Satan that has entered into the Church because this is the vineyard of God and good fruit is not being borne in many parts of the Church.
We have seen the beginning of the purification, and that too is going to continue. As things continue forward, the line is going to be drawn in the sand, and we are going to have to make a decision of whether we are going to remain Catholic or whether we are not. Are we going to remain faithful to Jesus Christ or are we not? It is not going to be a popular thing to be Catholic. It already isnít, but it is going to be a whole lot less popular pretty soon. Are you willing to suffer with Christ? Are you willing to be persecuted with Him? What is happening in the world is going to continue, and it is going to get worse because the world needs to be purified. When it is over, there is going to be a remnant that is going to be beautiful, faithful, and bearing good fruit for the Lord.
I have been told in the past by other people that when I preach this kind of message people get kind of upset, they get afraid. So look at the second reading today. What does Saint Paul tell us? Do not be anxious about anything. Do not be anxious. If we just heard that the Church is going to be persecuted, there are going to be martyrs Ė many of them, the world is going to continue to get squished, why would we not be anxious? Saint Paul tells us exactly how to deal with that: Prayer. Pray, he says, then the peace of God which is beyond all understanding will fill your hearts and your minds. He goes on to say to the people: Live the example that you have seen, and then the peace of God will be yours. So there are those two points. If we are praying and if we are living the life, we will be at peace. And he tells us that anything that is good, anything that is beautiful, anything that is honorable, anything that is excellent, lovely, and so on, keep your eyes on that. Is there anything in our midst that is good and pure and beautiful and lovely and excellent? He is right there in the Blessed Sacrament. Saint Paul says to keep your eyes on that and the peace of God will be yours. We should be rejoicing that these things are happening, not being afraid.
It is a very simple proposition. Saint Therese, whose feast we celebrated yesterday, made the point so clearly and so simply when she was talking about the apostles when they were in the boat with Jesus, and Our Lord was sleeping in the bough. The water was sloshing over the top and the boat was being pushed about by the winds and the waves. The apostles, many of whom were fishermen, were afraid that the boat was going to sink. And she said simply, Do you really think the boat is going to sink if Jesus is in it? There is no way the boat is going to sink if the Lord is in it. As long as you are in the boat, you have nothing to fear! As long as you are with Jesus, you are just fine. Do not try to showboat it and walk on the water or do something cute because you are going to be in trouble, but stay in the boat with Jesus. Keep your eye on Him. Do not worry about the winds and the waves; let it happen. It is not our problem. Let the Lord take care of that. Our task is to keep our eyes on Him, to pray, to live the life, to keep our focus on what is good and beautiful and excellent Ė and that is Jesus. If it seems like He is not answering and He is a million miles away when you come to pray then just let Him sleep and keep your eyes on Him.
For those of you who are parents, you understand how that works. You have this beautiful little baby, and the baby is lying there in the crib. What are the parents doing? Staring at the baby, just simply loving that child even though the child is sound asleep in bed. You just stay with the child, you stare at the child, and you love the child. So as long as you are in the boat with Jesus, it does not matter whether He is sleeping or whether He is up and talking with you, just keep your eye on Jesus and remain with Him. Be guaranteed that as long as you are in the boat with Jesus you have nothing to fear.
Now we need to look at our own souls and ask ourselves, ďAm I in the boat with Jesus?Ē Number one, are you in the state of grace? Have you been to confession? Number two, are you living the live that you profess? Saint Paul says that we are to live from his example. We have seen in our day the example of some very holy people, Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, and others who have been good and holy people and good examples for us. Are we living a virtuous life or are we trying to play footsie with the world? Are we trying to see how worldly we can be while still remaining kind of in the Church sort of? We need to make that decision to get into the boat. As I said, do not try to showboat it; there is enough water sloshing over the side, you do not have to put your hand even over the side to see what the water is like. Stay in the boat. Are you praying? That is the key. Are we praying? Jesus is right here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, how much time do we spend with Jesus? Oh, itís nice to be able to tell people we are Catholic, but are we living it? How much time are we spending with the Lord?
If we cannot even keep our focus on Jesus when things are not too terribly chaotic, what are we going to do when it becomes really chaotic? Stay in the boat. As long as you are in the boat, you have nothing to fear because Jesus is in the boat; and as long as Jesus is in the boat, it is not going to sink. We have nothing to fear. As long as we are praying and as long as we are living the life that we profess to live then the peace of God which is beyond all understanding will fill our hearts and our minds, and then we will be able to recognize what is Godís Will, what is true and perfect and good. We will rejoice in that rather than be afraid of it, and we can remain at peace in the midst of the wild chaos that whips around us. That is what it comes to. The purification is going to happen whether we want it to or not, whether we like it or not. Whether we are going to be at peace or filled with fear, it is going to happen. So Saint Paul gives us the way to stay at peace, and the way is very simple: pray, live the life of virtue, stick close to the sacraments, stay in the boat, and keep your eye on Jesus. As long as you are in the boat with Jesus you are safe, because as long as Jesus is in the boat, the boat will not sink.
*† This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.†††††††