Sunday, October 5, 2014

HOMILY 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle “A” Oct 5, 2014

Have you ever had anything taken away from you by force?  Maybe some bully at school took your pen or your lunch.   Maybe your wallet or purse was robbed or stolen.   Maybe you were fired from a job you wanted, either because the company went under, or you screwed up?   Most of us have experienced a loved one taken from us by death.  We have all suffered loss.  Loss sucks.  Especially if the loss is taken from us violently.

In today’s Gospel Jesus boldly and confrontationally states:   “Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit."

That is a threat.  Who is the “you” that Jesus is speaking to?   Jesus says: “I say to you the kingdom of God will be taken away from you.”
          Well St Matthew tells us at the very beginning of today’s Gospel passage who the “you” are:  Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:”    
          Now think about that a moment.  Jesus is not addressing this parable to sinners, to tax collectors and to prostitutes and drug dealers and polluters and terrorists and such like that.  This threat is not addressed to the people we expect would be kept out of the Kingdom of God.   No, Jesus is addressing people at the opposite end of the social scale, “the chief priests and the elders of the people.”  This is the power elite in the Jewish world.  These are the most respected people, the ones at the top of society.  And they are going to have the Kingdom of God wrenched out of their tight little grip.
          Why?  Why does Jesus come down on them so hard?  What did they do that was so terrible?  Well, it is not so much what they did, but rather what they failed to do.  They did not use their power and wealth and prestige and knowledge and connections to do good with them.  
They used their status and advantage only for themselves, to feather their own nests, not addressing the needs of others around them, while their responsibility was for all of God’s people.  And when the prophets tried to tell them of their responsibility, they refused to listen. That is why the chief priests and the elders of the people resisted, and eventually killed, all the prophets leading up to and including Jesus. 
          And so the judgment of God is:  Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit."
          Now who has that Kingdom been given to?   Look around.  We are it, baby!  We and all the rest of the church.  We are called to be the “people that will produce its fruit”. 
          Guess what?  We stand under the same criterion of judgment that the chief priests and the elders of the people were measured by:   NOT, what evil did you avoid doing, but rather, HOW MUCH GOOD DID YOU DO?  How much fruit of the Kingdom of God did you produce????
          What are the Fruits we are expected to produce?    At the end of the first reading today, from the Prophet Isaiah’s song about the vineyard we heard, “he looked for judgement, but see, bloodshed!  For justice, but hark, the outcry!”    The Jerusalem Bible translates this line more poetically and more understandably as “He expected justice, but found bloodshed,      integrity, but only a cry of distress.”   
          Justice and Integrity are what we are called to produce.  That is the fruit of the Kingdom of God.  So, how has your harvest of justice and integrity been going lately?  Have you been having a bumper crop, or kind of meager pickings due to a drought of the Spirit? 
          We are all very, very busy.   And much of what we do all day, taking care of our family, providing for ourselves and our loved ones, learning and bettering ourselves to have the skills and abilities to contribute positively to society, and so on, are in themselves doing good.  And that is great.  But that is not enough. 
We have to make “doing good” a priority.  We have to produce the fruit of the Kingdom of God: that is, Justice and Integrity.  That cannot be something we do “after” we get done with all our other business.  Because doing THIS is our primary business, to build up the Kingdom of God, to produce its fruit.  That is our very great privilege and our very great responsibility. 
So, Will this influence how you vote next month?  Hopefully it will motivate you to at least go vote.  Will this affect how you talk about other people, especially other groups and classes?  Will this motivate you to be more generous in offering your treasure to needy causes, to donate time to helping with parish and community events, with using your skills and advantages to help others, beyond yourself and your immediate circle?  How will you work for Justice and Integrity, and so help promote the Kingdom of God?
          St. Paul in our second reading today gives us some help, some practical advice on being more fruitful.   
          “Finally,” St. Paul says, whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,   whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received….
Then the God of peace will be with you.”  
And the Kingdom of God will not be taken away from you!            AMEN

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