Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies

"Let us Set Ourselves on the Path to True Freedom, Holiness and Sanctity"
Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
October 2, 2011
Year A

Most of us are probably at least familiar with Charles Dickens’ famous work, A Christmas Carol. In the story we become acquainted with the major characters, two men who are complete opposites: Bob Cratchit and Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is the perfect example of what sin does to our souls and communities. His life was full of immense potential. As a youth he was a happy and jovial person. He had friends and he was in love. As he became more successful, he became more isolated. His self-centeredness caused it all to be wasted and withered. He made himself into a miserable man, and he spread misery to all those around him, cutting off the flow of God's goods to persons in need, all because of selfishness.

Sinful attitudes and habits make us into Scrooges: shriveling up into ourselves, making others suffer, choking the flow of grace and goodness that makes us and those around us happy. Selfishness of this sort rejects that which is truly good for us and for others. This rejection is what we find in the Gospel today.

In this parable, Jesus draws from the vineyard allegory found in our first reading. Isaiah’s vineyard allegory originally served as a judgment warning to the House of Israel for their sins. It was a foreshadowing of the Babylonian Exile and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus puts His own spin on the same message. His is still a message of judgment but with a new cast of characters. God the Father is the landowner, the tenants are the chief priests who are responsible for the care of the vineyard – the Israelite people – and the servants are the prophets sent to reap the fruit of their labor. But the tenants become selfish and so they treat those servants harshly – beating them, stoning them and killing them. Yet, the landowner shows his kindness toward the tenants by continuing to send servants until finally he sends his son. “They will respect my son.” But he is treated in the same regard. The son in this parable is Jesus and thus He predicts His own death.

What strikes me is that the vineyard owner sent his son even though he knows what happened to the other servants. So, why did he send him? In a homily of St. Matthew’s Gospel, St. John Chrysostom explains that the owner’s words to himself – ‘they will respect my son’ – do not reflect naïveté. “This is not the language of an ignorant man… Rather, it is the language of one desiring to show the sin to be great and inexcusable. For though he himself knew that they would slay him, he sent him. When he says, ‘they will respect,’ he states what ought to have been done, that it was their duty to have reverenced him.”
Msgr. Romano Guardini explains that this is precisely what it means to be a sinner – “to stand in opposition, not only to the eternal moral code, but also to the living and holy God, imitating Satan’s age-old attack, the creature’s senseless but profoundly exciting attempt to dethrone, degrade and destroy his creator… Sin does not remain in the solitary cell of the individual conscience, but swiftly spreads to become a community of error and fate. Stronger or weaker, overt or clandestine, conscious or unconscious, hesitant or determined, its ultimate sense is destruction.”

In many ways we can be like Scrooge in our lives. We all have our weaknesses and failings – each of us here are sinners, no question about it. We all have in some way or another stood in opposition, we have rejected and disrespected the one – as St. John Chrysostom points out – we ought to have reverenced. I’m sure we could think of one example or another – perhaps simply on the way in which we use God’s name or how attentive or inattentive we are at Holy Mass or how often we have thought and convinced ourselves that we do not need to go to confession, especially before receiving Holy Communion. What then will draw us back? What will it take to help us overcome the “Scrooge-like” tendency of sin?

Following up a bit on Fr. Deeker’s wonderful homilies on the new translation of the Roman Missal – I think that the new translation will do just that, draw us back. With a more tighter and more faithful translation that bespeaks the ancient tradition of the Church and with scriptural references integrated throughout we will be constantly aware of the sacredness and holiness of God Himself and yet at the same time be reminded in heart and mind that this same Almighty God came to us as a human being not to judge but to forgive, to offer salvation and freedom. Embraced by Jesus Christ in the divine encounter of the Eucharist, we become more keenly aware of the weight of our sins, we learn how to “discard defiance and that fatalistic pride which insists on doing everything alone,” as Msgr. Guardini explains, and begin to “learn the humility that seeks grace.”

To come to Mass with this attitude, to live our daily lives in this way is to reject the “Scrooge-like” tendency of sin, it is to be reminded that we are in continual need of conversion, it is to stand with God and not in opposition to Him, it is to recognize our weaknesses, sins and failings and really work at trying to root them out – through confessing our sins and receiving Holy Communion. In these ways, we set ourselves on the path to true freedom, holiness and sanctity.




Fr. Jon Reardon


Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.




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